In a Devastating Pandemic Year, Amazon Was Its Biggest Winner

A book excerpt from the April/May 2021 issue of the magazine:

On the Saturday before Easter 2020, I set off on a drive from Baltimore, where I live, to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where I grew up. There were stay-at-home orders in effect in Maryland, but I decided that a visit to my parents, whom I had not seen in several months, qualified as essential. I would stay elsewhere for the night, to keep a safe distance; we would go for an Easter Sunday walk.

If we were in a war against the novel coronavirus, then Amazon was our troop carrier.

I departed Baltimore in the early evening. Interstate 95, the perpetually clogged corridor of the Eastern Seaboard, was emptier than I had ever seen it. Digital highway signs overhead declared “SAVE LIVES NOW. STAY HOME.” I had never been in the vicinity of a war zone, but it occurred to me that it might feel somewhat like this—only the most essential or foolhardy travelers on the roads, the rest of the world hunkered down.

Except there were no troop carriers or munitions haulers in this war zone. Instead, there were trucks. The majori