It’s one tough bug.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided frightening new details about the durability of the coronavirus — telling New Yorkers that the virus can linger in the air for up to three hours and survive for three days on plastic and steel surfaces commonly found on trains and buses.
The startling new information may explain how the disease spread so far and wide across the five boroughs and why the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s workforce has been hit so hard by the pandemic.
“We’ve been working on how to come up with new cleaning and disinfecting protocols,” Cuomo said, who described the findings as a “shocker to me.”
The MTA reported Friday it has now lost 84 employees to COVID-19 — 82 worked for the agency’s subway and city bus divisions. Officials at the agency said that 3,352 employees have tested positive since the outbreak began and that 3,368 staffers are currently ordered to stay home.
An MTA spokesman said that the transit agency “has been disinfecting our stations and high-touch areas twice a day and the rolling stock once a day, with the entire in-service fleet turned within 72 hours.”
More than 6,400 transit workers — mostly city subway and bus employees — have recovered and returned to work.
“It’s something we need to know, but frankly, I think it’s something everybody needs to know,” Cuomo explained. “The virus can live up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces and stainless-steel surfaces. Just think about this from a transit point of view or from your car point of view,” said Cuomo. “It can live on a pole in a bus or on a seat in a bus for up to 72 hours.”
“When they were talking about droplets, I thought it was a droplet and then it falls, right? It’s a droplet that can hang in the air for three hours,” Cuomo added. “I don’t even know how that works.”
The statistics highlighted by Cuomo in his powerpoint echo the findings of a University of California – Los Angeles study released last month.
Not only is the hardy virus hard to kill without regular cleanings, it can also be spread by people who exhibit no symptoms, making it doubly hard for officials to contain the pathogen without widespread testing.
The coronavirus has infected more than 271,000 New Yorkers and killed more than 16,000 statewide.
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