NEW YORK - Despite the spread of coronavirus, state and local officials are not shutting down mass transit in the city and state, at least not yet. An estimated 4.3 million people ride the New York City subway system a day.
MTA Interim Chairperson Sarah Feinberg told FOX 5 NY morning program 'Good Day New York' and echoed statements from NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio a day earlier that they are not ruling out the possibility.
"This is a dynamic situation," Feinberg said. "Moment by moment; hour by hour. We will follow the guidance we are given by medical experts."
More than 51,000 MTA employees are working to help prevent the spread of the virus in the city by cleaning and disinfecting 'touchpoints' and disinfecting subway cars every 72 hours. Workers are using bleach to scrub down all 472 stations, 6,714 subway cars, and 5,700 buses. The goal is to sanitize anything any commuter might touch.
"It's what's feasible at the moment. We are following the guidance we are given from medical experts," Feinberg said.
Part of the contingency plan involves imploring employers to stager work hours of employees to reduce the number of commuters and straphangers on any train or subway at any given time.
"We're urging employers to let people change the times that they're coming into work and change the times that they're leaving work so that we can stagger people and have less crowding," Feinberg said. "I can see that happening."
"We don't want to have to do massive close-downs, massive quarantines," said Cuomo on Sunday during FOX Business' 'Mornings with Maria.'
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"If you are traveling by subway and the train that comes up is all packed and you can wait for the next train in the hope it's less packed, please do," said de Blasio during a news conference Sunday.
As of Monday morning, there were 16 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City and 108 across the state.
A short-term shutdown of the New York City subway would not be unprecedented. In 2015 the entire subway system was shut down in anticipation of a major snowstorm that ended up fizzling out.
In 2005, a strike by the transit union caused a 3-day shutdown of the system.
An earlier version of this story indicated that Amtrak was suspending all Acela Express service between New York City and Washington, D.C. as part of its coronavirus response. Amtrak says service will continue to run with only 3 direct trains being canceled.