Cuomo announces New York City will disinfect every subway train every 24 hours in an 'unprecedented step'

Cuomo announces New York City will disinfect every subway train every 24 hours in an 'unprecedented step'
A man wears a face mask and surgical gloves to prevent Covid-19 spread, at the New York City subway train in New York, United States on March 11, 2020.Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the New York City MTA will "disinfect every train every 24 hours" in an effort to keep essential workers safe from coronavirus infection.
  • On Thursday, Cuomo and NYC mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the subway would close overnight between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. so trains could be cleaned.
  • Essential workers will be able to use city buses and rideshare services for free during the closure times.
  • Cuomo said that he couldn't ask essential workers, doctors, and transit operators to come to work "without being able to tell them the trains and buses are clean."
  • Coronavirus particles can survive for days on surfaces like plastic and stainless steel.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that, in an "unprecedented step," the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency in charge of the city's public transit, is going to clean every subway train every 24 hours.

"The MTA is going to literally disinfect every train," Cuomo announced Saturday, adding that cleaners in hazmat suits will go through the whole train with a misting device and spray every surface with disinfectant. He said subway stations and the surfaces therein will be cleaned too, but did not stipulate if those areas fell under the once-a-day cleaning guidelines.
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This announcement comes two days after Cuomo and NYC mayor Bill de Blasio directed the MTA to shut down all city trains overnight each night so that train cars can be cleaned and disinfected. The shutdowns will start on Wednesday, May 6.

According to Sarah Feinberg, interim president of the New York Transit Authority, the city has a team of 900 cleaners who will carry out the governor's order. They'll be disinfecting trains in subway yards, lay-up areas where cars are stored, and, of course, those in operation.

Increased cleanings will occur during daylight hours too, she said during the Saturday press briefing, adding that "some cars will get cleaned more than once" per day.
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'Doing right by' New York City's essential workers

Cuomo announces New York City will disinfect every subway train every 24 hours in an 'unprecedented step'
A municipal worker, wearing special suit to protect against coronavirus, sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus, on an empty street with a billboard reads "Stay home, take care of yourself and your loved ones" on April 12, 2020.Andrei Nikerichev/AP

While the impending overnight subway shutdowns may be inconvenient, Cuomo said that he couldn't ask the city's essential workers, doctors, and transit operators to come to work "without being able to tell them the trains and buses are clean." "Essential workers are doing the right thing by us, and we have to do the right thing by them," he said, adding: "trains and buses should be clean, period, end of story."
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Essential workers will be provided free transit with buses, ride-sharing services, and 'dollar' vans during the closures.

The trains won't run between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., traditionally the hours with the least ridership, in order to disinfect surfaces which may be carrying and spreading the virus. Commuter trains on the Metro-North and Long Island Railroad will also be disinfected each night.

Research has shown that the coronavirus particles lives for days on surfaces found in subway cars. One study published last month in the journal The Lancet found live virus on stainless steel after seven days. Another study, which Cuomo referenced when making his Thursday announcement, suggested the virus could live for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
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Cuomo announces New York City will disinfect every subway train every 24 hours in an 'unprecedented step'
NYPD and MTA officers wake up sleeping passengers and direct them to the exits at the 207th Street A-train station, Thursday, April 30, 2020, in the Manhattan borough of New York.AP Photo/John Minchillo

"We're going to find a way to make our subway system cleaner that it has ever been in its history, probably," de Blasio said Thursday, adding that cleaning the subways will take coordination among multiple city and state agencies.

Here are the other key takeaways from Cuomo's Saturday coronavirus update:

  • The state recorded 299 more coronavirus deaths on Friday, up from 289 deaths on Thursday. Twenty-three of those 299 deaths were in nursing homes.
  • The number of deaths still remains "obnoxiously, terrifyingly high," Cuomo said.
  • Hospitalizations, intubations, and the number of new cases fell again, per the state's department of health.
  • The governor announced that the state health department has started asking hospitals to gather data from coronavirus patients regarding their occupation and method of travel to work.
  • "Even when you're in unchartered waters, that doesn't mean you proceed blindly. You gather data the best you can and use that to decide where you're going," Cuomo said.
  • State-wide antibody testing continues. As of Friday, 15,301 New Yorkers had been tested.
  • 12.3% of people tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, which means they had already been infected with COVID-19 and recovered.
  • About 20% of New York City residents who were tested had antibodies; the Bronx had the highest percentage of people with positive tests.
  • Cuomo announced that the state health department is doing antibody testing of transit workers in the New York City region.
  • The state is distributing $25 million to food banks statewide using New York-sourced products.
  • New York State will distribute 7 million cloth masks to nursing homes and poorer communities statewide.
Jeremy Burke contributed reporting to this story.
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