So what is it about New York City that made it a hot spot? Right now, it looks like the most exceptional thing about New York is its leaders’ belief that the city is unique. This presumption served first as a reassurance that New York would not follow Lombardy’s example, and later as the reason why it had.

Cuomo used the former logic on March 2, arguing, “When you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.” It’s a familiar idea: New York is what it is, whether it’s budgeting for subways or picking up garbage, and will take no lessons.

Once New York had followed—and surpassed—Lombardy’s infection rate, well, that was New York Exceptionalism too. “Given the density that we’re dealing with, it spreads very quickly,” Cuomo said three weeks later.

Exceptional things about New York: the Yankees, the Met, Brian Lehrer, Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Jackson Heights.

Unexceptional things about New York: international flights, immigrants, the fact that its residents live in apartment buildings, suffer from overcrowding as a result of high housing costs, and use public transit.