The entire public transportation system in downstate New York, and that includes the Metro-North commuter rail service, will be disinfected every 24 hours under a program announced today by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Patrick Foye, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Sarah Feinberg, who heads the New York City transit system, joined Cuomo for today’s announcement in Albany.
“I would wager in the history of public transportation in this nation you never had a challenge of disinfecting every train, every 24 hours,” Cuomo said. “Disinfect, how do you even disinfect a train? We clean trains but how do you disinfect? This is a whole new process, these are new chemicals. This is new equipment for workers. It’s new methods.”
The MTA had been using 72 hours as the standard for cleaning and sanitizing of each car in the system until now in the COVID-19 pandemic. Because rail service on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road has been sharply curtailed due to a drop in ridership and trains generally are being run hourly on the commuter lines, moving to a 24-hour standard will be easier to implement than on the New York City subway system, which is going to have to be shut down overnight to allow for intensified cleaning cycles.
“Ridership is down 92 percent,” Cuomo said. “One a.m. to 5 a.m. It’s the lowest ridership. Estimate is about 10,000 people ride the system overall during that period of time. So the MTA will launch what they call the essential connector program. They’ll have buses, dollar vans and if necessary, will provide for-hire vehicles to transport a person. The Uber, the Lyft, the vehicles – at no cost to the essential worker during those hours to provide transport. We don’t have bars open, we don’t have restaurants open, so you don’t have a lot of traffic that you would normally have. You do have essential workers who are using our trains and subways. They will have transportation during that period of time.”
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined Cuomo by video to announce that the program to trace people who may have come into contact with known carriers of COVID-19 being coordinated by Bloomberg will be launching in a couple of weeks. The program will operate through the next flu season and will be implemented in coordination with New Jersey and Connecticut.
The program will include a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 individuals and will utilize additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in each region. The program is expected to have 6,400 to 17,000 tracers statewide. Contact tracing teams will work remotely with state-of-the-art software to develop a secure database of information on the spread of the infection.
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will support the initiative. Bloomberg Philanthropies will help the state Department of Health identify and recruit potential contact tracers for the program from state, city and county health departments. The organizations Vital Strategies and Resolve To Save Lives are involved, as are SUNY and CUNY.
Bloomberg said a comprehensive playbook will be written that details the steps needed to do contact tracing effectively.
“We will release that playbook publicly so cities and states around the country can use it and so can nations around the world,” Bloomberg said. “That way the work we do here in New York really can help fight the virus globally. We’ll also bring in a group of outside experts to conduct an evaluation of the program so that other states and countries can see what worked well and identify areas they can improve on. And, we’ll learn as we go, and make adjustments and share what we’ve learned.“
Statewide there have been a total of 18,321 COVID-19 deaths according to statistics obtained this afternoon from the state Health Department. There were 306 deaths yesterday, 19 in nursing homes and 287 in hospitals. That continued the trend of the number of COVID-19 deaths in New York state being below 400 for the past five days.
New York had 304,372 people test positive for the virus. There were 28,970 cases identified in Westchester, 11,708 in Rockland, 970 in Putnam, 8,650 in Orange and 2,954 in Dutchess.
There were 1,144 deaths in Westchester. Rockland saw 398 of its residents fall victim to the virus. Putnam lost 45 residents, while 240 Orange County residents were fatalities. There were 70 deaths in Dutchess.