New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that subways are safe and encouraged New Yorkers to use mass transit on the same day he said the city should be ready for a full shutdown after restaurants were ordered to halt indoor dining amid a surge of coronavirus cases.
Speaking at his daily briefing Monday, de Blasio said, "it is important to let people know the subways are safe." Prompted by a reporter, he floated the idea of setting an example by riding the subway himself to show there's nothing to fear, similar to how he plans to publicly take the COVID-19 vaccine, the New York Post reports.
"I like the idea of having a period of time to really emphasize to people that they're safe, by being out there," he said.
Subway ridership dramatically decreased in the first few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic amid fears that being around other people in an indoor cramped space might increase spread of the coronavirus. But studies have shown that public transportation does not pose a significant risk of viral transmission.
"We have found out that the use of mass transit is not a singularly important factor in the transmission of influenza," Mitchell Moss, director of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, told Gothamist earlier this month. Moss is one of the authors of a New York University study that examined data from 121 U.S. cities over 10 years and found the number of people who died of influenza did not increase in cities with higher participation in public transit.
The findings were hailed by New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
"This is the latest in a cascade of scientific reporting that shows transit is not a vector for the spread of respiratory diseases, and there has been no serious evidence worldwide connecting transit routes and spread of this virus," said MTA spokesperson Meredith Daniels in a statement.
Though Mayor de Blasio endorsed the city subway system, he also warned Monday that his city should be prepared for another "full shutdown" to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking with CNN's Alisyn Camerota, de Blasio cited growing numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as cause for concern and the rationale for new coronavirus restrictions.
"We're seeing the kind of level of infection with the coronavirus we haven't seen since May, and we have got to stop that momentum — or else, our hospital system will be threatened," the mayor said.
The mayor's comments raise the question: If the whole city needs to shut down, who will ride the subway?