“Public transit is much more anonymous and relatively ephemeral,” said Crystal Watson, senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
In the months following the peak of the epidemic in New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s subways and buses, invested hundreds of millions of dollars in daily disinfection of train cars, distributed over a million masks to passengers, and launched public service campaigns encouraging motorcyclists to maintain their social distance.
These efforts are aimed as much at influencing public perceptions and regaining the trust of commuters as they are at protecting public health, officials said.
“There is both a fundamental public health objective and a message and assurance objective,” said Patrick J. Foye, president of the MTA.
Dr Joan Stroud, 61, a family physician at NYU Langone Brooklyn Heights Medical, began driving from her home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, to work in early May rather than taking the subway.
“The trains in New York City were already dirty,” she says. “I wasn’t going to have one every day during a big wave of infection.”
But a month ago, she returned to the metro, which offers a faster trip, and was impressed with the system.
“The trains are as clean as I’ve ever seen them,” she said.
Reporting was provided by Théophile Larcher from Paris, Bella Huang from Hong Kong, Melissa Eddy from Berlin and Makiko Inoue from Tokyo.