NEW YORK – They left the seemingly crowded train. If they decide to ride, they search for an empty car to live in. They then measure other passengers before choosing the safest place they can find to sit or stand on a journey that sometimes takes an hour or more.
This quiet account is executed every day by people who have to keep working for the Coronavirus pandemic and have said that the required social distance is almost impossible to exercise in the public transportation system attached to New York City.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people should be 6 feet (2 meters) away. But despite the city’s passengers retreating, which makes crowded trains and buses an exception to the rule, passengers are not always guaranteed to be even 6 inches (15 cm).
“Everyone is very scared,” said Shadira Armsted, the health care receptionist who leads the subway to work. “They are trying to keep their distance from each other, but this is impossible.”
He said, “This makes me not want to take the train at all. I feel nervous every day, but I still have to go.”
Drivers sat on several trains in Brooklyn and Queens this week or parked in several cars a few feet away from each other, with their faces exposed, while keeping them away from camp displacement. At the same time, there are pictures showing mostly empty subway platforms at times when they are usually crowded.
Transit officials say they are working harder than ever to protect their passengers and workers amid a pandemic that has killed more than 7,000 New Yorkers in a few weeks, most of them in and around the city. Many suburbs of New Jersey and Connecticut also recorded a large number of deaths.
The virus has also killed 41 urban transport authority employees, which operate city buses, subway and several passenger trains. For most people, new coronaviruses cause mild or moderate symptoms, but for some people, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, they can cause more serious diseases and cause death.
“We want as little social density and distance as we can,” Patrick Foy, head of the Air Transport Authority, said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
Foy, who was also affected by the virus but fine, described the scene that was flowing on the train as “accidental” and said the safety measures worked well enough so that drivers’ complaints about overcrowding in recent days had dried up.
The challenge is not limited to New York. In Philadelphia, where at least three transit workers were killed as a result of COVID-19, the southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said it would move to “rescue” services on Thursday, several stations were closed and train and bus services were limited to main roads.
London, Paris and South Korea are also struggling to keep public transport running.
In London, where passengers dropped 93% from the same point last year, photos posted on social media showed that some trains are busy during rush hour because they operate less because of employee sickness. Fourteen London transport personnel died from the virus, including eight bus drivers.
Also in New York, the use of all forms of mass transit decreased.
The number of passengers on the subway on Monday decreased by 92% compared to normal working days. The passenger rail line that serves Long Island has 97% fewer passengers. On the North Metro, which serves the northern suburbs of the city, including Connecticut, passengers drop 95%. On MTA buses, they drop by more than 60%.
The agency reduced bus services by almost 25%, reducing the number of trains running on weekdays on Long Island Railroad from around 740 to about 500 and on the North Metro from 713 to 424.
While the subway and buses are much less crowded than usual, there are still very close times to rest in the age of coronavirus.
While waiting for the train to Manhattan on the Queens platform, Ibrahima Somara said he was searching for the lowest subway car that could be found before boarding the plane.
“I’m afraid people will touch me, come close to me,” said Soumareh, the train’s quality control official. “I’m afraid of others, too.”
He said he was also concerned that some of his colleagues might not follow long-distance protocols in their lives, not just on the train. “New Yorkers, don’t listen.”
In order not to get the train too crowded, MTA New York said it tried to maintain regular service on the most used roads. There are also police officers directing people on subway platforms to the busiest train sections. Riders are encouraged to cover their faces and report situations where social distance is not observed.
The agency has posted banners on several trains reading: “Important workers, yes, no problem driving. No – why did you even read this? Return home.”
Foy said the MTA has been working to help protect employees by distributing 300,000 medical masks, 160,000 surgical masks and 2.5 million pairs of gloves to its employees since March 1.
A Queens subway rider in Harajav Monagala said on Tuesday that during his trip to his job as a project manager for food packaging and delivery services, he tried to “respect important people” like nurses.
“Most of the people I see now are tired,” while others act “madly,” he added. This is New York.
The Associated Press writer Danica Kerka in London contributed to this report.
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