Watch CBS News

MTA Officials And More Discuss 'Social Distancing' As Means To Combat Coronavirus Spread

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The MTA wants riders to think twice before getting onto crowded trains.

The agency urges so-called "social distancing."

Mayor Bill de Blasio is reminding New Yorkers to be vigilant and do everything they can to protect themselves. That includes walking and riding a bike to work instead of taking the bus or subway. But many question if the number coronavirus cases continues to rise, will more drastic measures need to be taken?

Monday was a beautiful day to take the advice of state and city leaders trying to limit the spread of coronavirus: Avoid crowded and confined places.

"We see a lot of evidence that people are changing their basic habits in a way that will really affect the trajectory of this whole crisis," said de Blasio.

Even the chair of the MTA is telling riders to not take mass transit.

CORONAVIRUS: CDC Latest | NY Health Dept. | NYC Health Dept. | NY Hotline: 1-888-364-3065 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Hotline: 1-800-222-1222 | CT Hotline: 211

"If you can get around without riding the subway, do it. If telecommuting is an option, do it," said MTA chairman Pat Foye.

"They should adjust their interaction: So-called social distancing," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But for many people like Javier Simbana, social distancing is not an option. He lives in Sunnyside, Queens and takes a train to work at an Upper West Side restaurant.

Watch: MTA Officials Discuss Coronavirus Response

"How can I stay home and work from home? I mean there are people that work from home, yes, I understand that, but the majority they need to commute from Queens, Brooklyn and they have their jobs in the city," he said.

"Social distancing. New York City, there's no way that that's possible," one person told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

Watch: Gov. Andrew Cuomo Gives Coronavirus Update

It's possible in China, where the country took drastic measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus, putting cities under quarantine, shutting down schools, factories and businesses. New cases there are now on the decline.

"We know from past epidemics including the 1918 huge flu epidemic that it kind of works. Different cities that did a lot of social distancing did better than those that didn't," said Dr. John LaPook, chief medical correspondent for CBS News.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, says he doesn't think it's feasible for the United States to quarantine millions of people like China.

"I don't think you could do that. But the idea of social distancing, I mean, obviously, that's something that will be seriously considered, depending upon where we are in a particular region of the country," Fauci said.

The MTA says the transit system is still low risk. Trains and buses are deep cleaned every 72 hours. Frequently touched surfaces like turnstiles and Metrocard machines are disinfected every day. The agency says it would consider adding trains to make them less crowded, but are asking riders to do their part.

"If you can travel on the shoulder periods, a little earlier, a little later in the morning, a little earlier in the evening, later in the evening when there's less crowding, do that," Foye said.

De Blasio says social distancing in the form of a city shutdown is not a scenario he says happening any time soon. De Blasio says the goal is always to keep the city running.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.