What to know about riding the NYC subway during the coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is on everyone’s mind. In yesterday’s tip, Helen Racanelli shared what to know before donning a face mask on a plane. But planes aren’t the only places that you can spot people wearing face masks these days, and they’re not the only places that people gather in close proximity. In New York City, for example, the subway system—the largest in the U.S.—is another. (The NYC subway handles five million riders every weekday!)

In an excellent write-up, The New York Times shares tips on how to limit your risk of getting coronavirus on the NYC subway. Immediately, it notes that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is taking measures to help. The MTA, per NYT “said it would begin disinfecting all train cars and buses every three days with bleach and disinfectants typically used in hospitals and nursing homes. Cleaning crews will also scrub subway stations, including turnstiles, benches and ticket-vending machines, once a day with disinfectants.”

With or without these cleanings, though, the NYC subway can be extremely crowded. Per the CDC, which the story cites, “standing within six feet of a sick person could carry a risk of exposure.” So what else can you do to protect yourself, on the NYC subway or public transit anywhere? Among the good, simple tips:

  • “wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer, once you get off a train or a bus”
  • “avoid touching your face with your hands because the viral droplets must enter through the eyes, nose or mouth to cause infection”

In addition, you should avoid touching hard surfaces like poles if possible. “Preliminary research,” says the NYT story, “suggests that particles from the virus may be able survive on hard surfaces, like a metal pole in a subway car, for a few hours, according to the World Health Organization. (Scientists are uncertain whether a surface like a metal pole could carry enough of the virus to cause a person to become sick.)

“If there are more confirmed cases in New York, those riding the subway should avoid directly touching a pole, turnstile or a seat with their hands, [Dr. Robyn R. M. Gershon, a professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Global Public Health], said. If you need to hold onto something, put a tissue between your hand and the pole or clean it with an anti-viral wipe before touching it, she suggested.”

For more NYC subway and coronavirus tips

Read the full NYT story (“Worried About Coronavirus on the Subway? Here’s What We Know“), and check out:


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