One of the more polarizing debates over COVID-19 is whether high population density leads to high infection rates. A body of evidence has emerged which suggests that higher population density is generally associated with higher infection rates while lower population density areas would have comparatively lower rates (Ahmadi et al. 2020; Rocklöv and Sjödin, 2020; Wang et al., 2020). Yet, there are exceptions to the rule. We look at one such exception in Tanah Merah (North Jakarta) which, despite its low population density, has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in Jakarta. We contend that intensive socialization practices, sprung from the precarious land tenure of Tanah Merah explain this anomaly. In focusing on socialization practices of the people, as opposed to the mobility of people or spatial characteristics of place (two of the most common ways to correlate population density and infection rate), we offer a more nuanced explication on the relationship between population/population density and the intensification of pandemics. In particular, we argue that the objectification of people as digits to (amongst other things) calculate population density must be augmented with a careful consideration of the subjective lived experiences of the very same people.