Once the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, New York has imposed strict guidelines for out-of-state travelers and businesses, but has taken few steps to enforce social distancing on subways.
Photos taken from inside rush-hour trains last week showed people wearing masks, but commuters forced to stand or sit uncomfortably close to each other, defying social distancing guidelines.
“The crowded conditions of New York’s public transit system was one of the major drivers of their epidemic,” Dr. Marty Makary, a professor of health policy & management at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, told Fox News.
Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo has frequently urged people to social distance and wear a mask. On Monday, he urged the New York Police Department (NYPD) to enforce the wearing of masks in public.
In March, Cuomo also closed non-essential businesses. Since then, the state and the city have been slow to reopen, with restaurants opening at 25 percent capacity for indoor dining last week.
But the governor’s office denied looking the other way on the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), a state agency that runs the subways and commuter rails for much of the state.
Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s senior adviser, said comparing subways with restaurants “is foolish” and is like comparing apples and oranges.
“As we’ve seen all across the country, it’s cramped, maskless indoor gatherings that were driving clusters,” Azzopardi said.
Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio argued for the MTA to limit rider capacity on subways and buses over the spring, but the state would not let him, claiming the move would cause overcrowding at train platforms and bus stops, the Wall Street Journal reported.
New York City, as of Tuesday, has had 242,315 cases of the coronavirus and 19,220 confirmed deaths, according to data from the New York City Health Department.