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(CARMEL, Ind.) — Critics of urban sprawl are drawing a parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic and the mental-health price of months of isolation.

The pandemic has been linked to increases in depression, substance abuse and other mental health issues. But urbanist Michael Mehaffy, executive director of Portland, Oregon’s, Sustasis Foundation, argues the pandemic lockdowns simply worsened an already-rising trend of social distancing. Mehaffy says increasingly car-dependent city planning has reduced the opportunities for people to interact with each other. He told a “Livable Cities” conference in Carmel the pandemic offered a reminder of the cost of those lost opportunities.

Mehaffy says there needs to be what he calls “sociable distancing,” with more shared public spaces. He says while the pandemic cut people off from each other, it also offered a pointer to rebuilding those interactions, as Indy and other cities repurposed parking spaces for outdoor dining.