Shocker: Virus spreads on crowded buses and subways…

So, how are urban workers going to get to work?

Remember when NYC Mayor de Blasio hopped on the subway to reassure people that they need not worry about catching the coronavirus by riding the trains? Source


Well, a couple of recently published studies debunk de Blasio’s “not to worry” … and raises some very thorny issues…


A study by UVA economist John McLaren suggests that:

No matter what your job, or your race, one of the most dangerous things you can do to put yourself at risk during the outbreak is to rely on public transit, be it buses or subways, in NYC, or elsewhere. Source

A second study by MIT’s Christopher Knittel and Bora Ozaltun, found that:

Every 10% increase in the share of a county’s residents who rely on public transit raised the mortality rate of COVID-19 by 1.21 per 1,000 people. Source

The bottom line: Riding a bus or subway increases the likelihood that a person gets infected.  Period.

The simple explanation: Close proximity to strangers on crowded railcars or buses on a daily basis for extended periods makes people particularly vulnerable to getting sick.



So, how to get to work?

There are emerging reports that companies — especially those in urban areas —  are having a hard time opening up because employees are understandably reluctant to take the virus-risk of jumping on a bus or subway car to get to work.

Further, the MIT study found that telecommuting workers have lower death rates than people who drive or walk to work … suggesting that risks increase simply by leaving the house and going to work. Source: WSJ

Besides incidental stranger-contacts along the way,  there are additional risks encountered once somebody gets to their workplace.

For example, need to take an elevator?

Like buses and subway cars, elevators jam strangers into close contact — ripe for person-to-person and surface-to-person virus-spreading.

And, the actions which might mitigate the onboard virus-spreading — e.g. frequent downtime to disinfect surfaces and limiting the number of passengers — simply transfer the problem to the lobbies where elevator riders have to queue up waiting their turn … keeping them proximate to other riders … and delaying their eventual landing at their desks.

What a mess.


P.S. Another notable finding from the  UVA study:

African-Americans may be dying at higher rates than white people from Covid-19,  in part because of black workers’s heavier reliance on public transportation for commutingSource: WSJ

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