- New York state has two confirmed coronavirus cases, one of which is believed to be a case of community spread, meaning the patient didn’t travel to China or knowingly interact with anyone who was infected.
- Many New York City commuters have raised concerns about the spread of the virus through its public transit system, which is used by an estimated 5.7 million on an average weekday.
- The MTA announced today that it would be taking precautionary measures against a possible coronavirus outbreak by doing a deep clean of its subway systems and public transit vehicles.
- The MTA will sanitize its trains, cars, and buses and frequently used surfaces in its subway systems, like turnstiles and handrails, daily.
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With two reported coronavirus cases in New York state, public institutions are bracing for a possible outbreak, particularly in New York City, which is the country’s most densely populated city with over 27,000 people per square mile.
New York’s public transit system, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), announced it would be doing a deep clean of all of its subway systems and public transit vehicles — and New Yorkers say it’s about time.
“It’s sad that it takes an epidemic for the stations to be regularly cleaned,” one New Yorker quipped on Twitter.
—Ashley Grace Velazquez (@senorita_badass) March 3, 2020
Many New York City commuters have raised concerns about the spread of the novel virus through its public transit system, which is used by an estimated 5.7 million on an average weekday in 2016, according to the MTA. A second case was reported on March 3, and appears to be a case of community spread, which means the patient didn’t travel to China or knowingly interact with anyone who was infected.
The transportation agency’s chairman and CEO, Patrick J. Foye, announced that the MTA “substantially increased the frequency and intensity of efforts to clean and disinfect our system” in the wake of the two reported coronavirus cases in New York state.
Foye detailed the MTA’s new agency-wide disinfecting protocols for its systems, which include New York City Transit, MTA Bus, Access-A-Ride, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North.
The transportation agency announced that frequently touched surfaces in its subway stations, like turnstiles, ticket vending machines, and handrails will also be disinfected on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the MTA’s “full fleet” of public transit vehicles, trains, cars, and buses, would be sanitized every 72 hours.
As of this morning, New York City Transit had disinfected 427 stations and 1905 railway cars. According to Foye, the transportation agency was on track to clean all 5700 of its buses within 72 hours. New York City Transit also urged commuters to take basic steps to protect themselves and others from a possible coronavirus infection, including washing their hands and covering their mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing.
—MTA (@MTA) March 3, 2020
Foye also noted that the MTA will be using CDC-approved disinfectants and is working with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state and federal health agencies in bracing for the novel coronavirus.
“We want New Yorkers to know that we’re doing everything possible to keep our customers safe,” Foye said, according to a press release. “Your safety is our highest priority and as such, we’re going above and beyond recommendations from health experts to disinfect the system.”
However, many New York city commuters were astonished at the announcement, claiming that New York’s public transit systems should be regularly cleaned “even without the threat of the coronavirus.”
—Vanessa (@vanessa_adelee) March 3, 2020
—Brooke Young Russell (@brookewellford) March 3, 2020
The New York MTA is the largest public transit system in the United States — and some believe it is the dirtiest as well. The New York subways serve an annual 1.757 billion riders, which presents numerous operational challenges.
The New York City Transport Workers Union once launched a competition to find the most disgusting subway photo, in which users submitted vile photos of everything from mounds of trash to feces on platform walls.
The competition was started in October 2019 to raise awareness about subways budget cuts that have led to a shortage of cleaners. A New York Times column revealed that it takes a single MTA worker three-and-a-half hours to clean the interior of a subway car, and is done so every eight to 10 weeks.
As the MTA steps up its sanitation protocols to brace for COVID-19, which the disease is now being called, it remains unclear if the agency will be hiring more cleaners to keep up with the demand of its new disinfection schedules.
“We’re able to handle the cleaning schedule with our current staff, and we’ll make further decisions based on need,” a spokesperson for the MTA told Business Insider.
The US has reported more than 120 cases of the virus with nine reported deaths in the country. New York’s first case was a Manhattan woman who had recently traveled to Iran. New York’s Gov. Cuomo said that the spread of the coronavirus was “inevitable” and that “most people who get infected won’t even know they have it.”
The New York state health department will be partnering to expand testing capacity for the virus and set a goal of conducting 1,000 tests per day. But with the current capacity is still limited, Cuomo urged hospitals to be conservative with their testing.
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