Gov. Cuomo should temporarily shut down the NYC subways to help slam the brakes on the coronavirus outbreak, urge four City Council members.
“We believe that drastic measures must be taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our transit system,” the lawmakers — Robert Holden, Eric Ulrich, Mark Gonaj and Peter Ko — say in a letter to Cuomo.
With MTA workers still lacking protective gear, trains packed with passengers due to reduced service, and homeless people camping in the cars, the subways are fueling the crisis, the councilmen say.
”MTA employees are going to work every day with woefully inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE). They are given one mask and one pair of gloves for an entire week while continuing to work among the filth of the subway,” the letter says, citing complaints by TWU Local 100 members.
“As a result, MTA workers are dying at a faster rate than any other front-line workers.”
COVID-19 has killed 68 employees to date, spokeswoman Abbey Collins said Saturday. A total 2,496 workers have tested positive, and 4,365 are currently quarantined due to illness or exposure. Another 4,127 have returned to work after quarantines.
The councilmen also cite news reports of crowded subway cars and buses when the MTA cut service due to lower ridership: “This crowding becomes a hotspot for COVID-19 transmission and presents an extreme danger to everyone on board,” the letter says.
Worsening the problem, “homeless New Yorkers are seeking refuge on the subways and taking over entire train cars, further endangering themselves and others,” it adds.
“Taking all of this information into account, we believe that the New York City transit system is a primary contributor to the spread of COVID-19, and we recommend a temporary closure of the system for at least one week for deep cleaning of trains, buses and stations.”
During the shutdown, the city and state can partner with for-hire services such as Uber and LYFT or the yellow cabs to give rides to essential workers, and lift all parking restrictions — except for no-standing zones, the councilmen suggest.
When service resumes, they say, the system should be shut down daily from midnight to 5 a.m. for deep cleaning, workers should get better PPE, and all commuters should be required to wear face coverings.
“It is time for a direct and coordinated approach from the city and state to bring this crisis to an end,” the letter says.
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