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Op-ed: The MTA’s proactive response to coronavirus

MTA Chair Pat Foye at a Feb. 18 Press conference in the Fulton Street subway station. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

BY PAT FOYE

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the region grows, New Yorkers are understandably concerned about how this might affect them.

For anyone worried about using public transportation, I can assure you that the MTA has taken aggressive and proactive steps to ensure the safety of our 8 million daily customers and our valued employees who keep it running.

To be clear, we are transportation experts, not medical experts. As such, we’re following the guidance of CDC, the State Department of Health and public health professionals — and they recommend that the public go about their business as usual, with some familiar flu season precautions.

Medical professionals say that the risk of transmission on public transit is low. I trust their judgment, not just as MTA Chairman and CEO, but also as a daily rider of our system. 

I haven’t strayed from my daily commute. I take Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station every day, then hop on the 1/2/3 down to the office. I want to reassure New Yorkers that the system remains safe.

We’re doing everything we can to protect your health. Within 24 hours of the first confirmed case, we implemented new disinfection procedures so that our entire train car and bus fleet is disinfected every 72 hours, and all stations daily – going beyond even the recommendations of health experts.

Our Access-A-Ride fleet is also disinfected daily, to support a medically vulnerable population. We will continue to implement this cleaning regiment as long as coronavirus remains an issue.

We’re also reminding everyone of best practices for riding with us, with public service announcements in multiple languages. The guidance is common sense: wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and use hand sanitizer. These announcements are in place in stations and onboard trains, in addition to digital signs with the same advice.

It’s also worth noting that the MTA has contingency plans in place for any situation, whether it’s health-related or an extreme weather event. We have supplies on hand and continue to restock, and have operational plans for everything from blizzards to emergencies.

New Yorkers are not only tough, but also smart. We know the facts. We should continue to follow the advice of medical experts and act responsibly if we feel sick. That means staying home if you experience symptoms, and washing your hands frequently.

As our new PSA says, “Let’s work together to keep New York healthy.”

Pat Foye is chairman and CEO of the MTA.

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