With almost eight million people riding MTA subways, buses and commuter trains every weekday--often in overcrowded conditions--the transit system has the potential to spread the coronavirus should a serious outbreak occur in New York.
So what is the agency doing to prepare for the virus and help to protect public health? NY1 Transit Reporter Dan Rivoli has the details:
The MTA's safety chief begins each day trying to learn the latest about the spread of the coronavirus.
"Every morning--about 8:30--we bring together all of the safety and health and emergency management individuals from not only the headquarters here but all the agencies that are part of MTA," said Chief Safety Officer Patrick Warren.
The daily conference calls happen inside the MTA's lower Manhattan headquarters, where staffers monitor the news and social media, as well as surveillance cameras on MTA bridges, and in its stations, depots and rail yards.
"We go over what's going on in the world, what's going to happen with the counts of incidents out there until we get that general idea of what's going on," said Warren.
The MTA's team is continually seeking guidance and updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and state and city health officials. The MTA also monitors employees who have been to countries where Coronavirus outbreaks have occurred.
For now, The MTA and other transit agencies are giving the same general advice to riders they give during flu season: wash hands, use alcohol-based sanitizers, don't touch your face, and avoid contact with sick people-which is no easy feat on overcrowded subway trains.
It's a message the MTA reinforced in a letter to its workers: "the best defense remains good hygiene."
Some riders told NY1 that they weren't changing anything about their commute or doing anything differently. However, some riders said they were doing exactly what the MTA is instructing them to do.
"I'm just being vigilant washing my hands making sure I'm not touching my face. I'm not wearing a mask yet--maybe I will--I don't know, if I hear about it," said commuter Dawn Aviles.
Another commuter, Ed Aristone, said, "I saw this guy like wearing a full-on mask kind of like Bane in the Batman movie or something. And I was like, that seems extreme to me."
The MTA acknowledges it has a break-the-glass-in-case-of-emergency plan.
"We have contingency plans for most everything…running from health emergency, to a winter storm or of the like. And they involve different steps--could be cleaning procedures--which would be more for health emergency," Warren said.
But what steps the MTA would take should the virus become widespread in New York? Officials won't say to avoid creating more fear.