NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The subways are only supposed to be for essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic, but conductors say the trains are filthier than ever.
The MTA says only about 5% of its regular ridership is taking the subway during this pandemic, and that's made up of people who work in hospitals, grocery stores and every other essential service.
But conductors say the subway has become a homeless shelter and social distancing is nearly impossible.
Cell phone video shows subway cars lined with people passed out, using shoes as pillows, not wearing masks, with trash piled in shopping carts.
"There is an astronomical amount of homeless people now in the subway," MTA train conductor Tramell Thompson said. "The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is now the Metropolitan Transmission Authority. They are transporting this virus."
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The MTA has been urging that only essential workers who rely on mass transit ride the subway during the pandemic, and service has been cut to about 75%.
But one conductor, who asked to remain anonymous, says that's only making the trains less sanitary.
"Because we have less trains to work with, the homeless in the system congregate on fewer trains, so it's way more evident now than it's ever been," the conductor told CBS2's Ali Bauman. "It's causing a hazard to MTA employees and the people that we have to transport during this time."
The MTA says since early March, the entire fleet of subway cars and buses gets disinfected every 72 hours, but its conductors tell us they're not seeing that.
"The trash, the feces, the urine, is there. It's just a very toxic, unsafe environment," Thompson said.
"We'll get a call from someone on the train. They'll press the passenger intercom and one of them is urinating in the cars," the anonymous conductor said. "And because we have so few trains, we have to ride back and forth."
An NYPD spokesperson says officers are patrolling the subways, but, "Without a doubt, disruptive passengers are more visible now and burglaries are up."
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On Wednesday, acting head of the Transit Authority Sarah Feinberg said she's urging the city to take more aggressive steps to address the problem.
"It is without a doubt a city obligation and responsibility," Feinberg said. "It's safe to say everyone here is losing patience."
That prompted this response from Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday.
"I don't understand what she's saying because the NYPD has been out there in force trying to address this issue ... If she's losing patience, I don't know why she hasn't called me," the mayor said.
While officials are finger-pointing, more than 50 transit workers have died from COVID-19.
"I just want them to take us seriously, to take our health seriously," the anonymous conductor said.
Transit sources tell CBS2 that Feinberg has asked repeatedly for a meeting with the mayor, but so far de Blasio hasn't obliged.
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