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New York City subways will shut down overnight for the first time

Cuomo on cleaning up subways
Cuomo promises daily disinfecting of subways amid coronavirus 01:40

The city that never sleeps is being forced to get some rest starting next week, when New York City's subway system will begin shutting down overnight. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the unprecedented move Thursday, which they said is necessary to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

Starting Wednesday, May 6, New York City subways will shut down from 1-5 a.m. to clean the public transit system on a daily basis. Ridership has decreased by 92% during the pandemic, and those hours have the fewest number of riders, the governor said.

Currently, the MTA is cleaning its network of trains and buses every 72 hours — but Cuomo said it's not enough. The governor said disinfecting the transit system daily is necessary so essential workers can get to work safely, without fear of being infected during their commute. "This is going to be one of the most aggressive, creative, challenging undertakings that the MTA has done," he said during his daily press briefing.

"I would wager in the history of public transportation in this nation, you've never had a challenge of disinfecting every train every 24 hours. You have to disinfect every place that a hand could touch on the subway car. Every rail, every pole, every door, wherever a hand could touch. Or coughing, sneezing, where ever droplets could land. Right? You have to disinfect that entire interior of the car and then you have to disinfect the stations."

Cuomo outlines plans for a "tracing army" to fight coronavirus 05:00

The cleanings are a "massive undertaking" that are expected to impact 10,000 riders nightly, Cuomo said. The missing train service will be supplemented by alternative transportation in the form of buses and for-hire vehicles that will be provided at no cost to essential workers as part of the Essential Connector Program.

Cuomo and de Blasio said they hope the closures allow the city's homeless population to receive much-needed services. 

"If you're not going back and forth all night on a train, and you're actually coming above ground where outreach workers are there to help you, NYPD officers trained in homeless outreach are there to support homeless people, get them to a better situation," de Blasio said. "It's not going to be easy. No one said it's going to be easy."

Nightly closures have never been imposed for an extended period of time before now. New York City's subways have operated 24/7 for 115 years, other than blackouts, strikes and severe weather, CBS New York reports.

But the governor said the cleanings are an important step in slowing the spread of the virus. "It is our obligation as human beings to reciprocate and make sure we're doing everything we can," he said. 

Homeless population a growing health issue in New York City's subway system 02:14
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