De Blasio, Cuomo Urge New Yorkers To Avoid Crowded Subway Cars

Steve Burns
March 08, 2020 - 7:09 pm
Mayor de Blasio

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

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Updated 11:08AM on Monday, March 9, 2020

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- With community spread of coronavirus now in New York, the city is asking people to take extra precautions in their day-to-day lives and implementing new measures to combat the virus.

The subways are the lifeblood of New York City with more than four million riders a day, but on Sunday Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested not getting on a crowded subway car.

"And you can possibly wait for the next train in the hopes it might be less packed, please do. Very common sense measure; something a lot of us do anyway," de Blasio said, also suggesting walking or biking to work. 

"If you can move to a train car that is not as dense, if you see a packed train car let it go by, wait for the next train," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

James Falken who lives in Battery Park City and commutes to the Upper East Side, found the advice useless.

"I was thinking about that this morning. I don't understand how he can do this. It's ridiculous, to be honest. I'm not trying to be insulting, but it's ridiculous," Falken said.

Anecdotally, commuters do not seem to be following the mayor's advice at the 86th Street and Lexington Avenue stop, where even the 6 a.m. trains were packed to the doors, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported Monday.

At a news conference at the Office of Emergency Management’s Brooklyn headquarters Sunday, de Blasio said the city’s public health apparatus “is already planning on the assumption that we will be at hundreds of cases over the next two or three weeks.”

Officials are most concerned about people with preexisting conditions who are over the age of 50, as they are most likely to suffer complications from the virus. People over the age of 50 with one of these conditions are especially at risk: heart disease; lung disease; cancer; compromised immune systems; and diabetes.

The mayor said children seem less at risk, but the city is taking no chances.

“We’re going to add 85 nurses in the course of the week to ensure that every school building will have a nurse on call,” he said.

In addition, de Blasio announced a ban on international trips for city schools. Initially only school trips to the most-effected countries had been canceled.

“We are now taking the next step, and we’re banning school international trips across the board,” he said.

City workers are also banned from international travel, the mayor said.

The mayor also said the city doesn’t plan to stop any large gatherings or public events but that anyone coughing or sneezing should avoid such events because the virus can be spread by sneezes from infected people.

“The only way it can become active and effect you is if it gets into the mouth, the nose, the eyes,” said the mayor, who urged people to avoid touching their faces.

De Blasio said sick New Yorkers should avoid taking the subway and urged people to work from home if possible.

“If you are sick, you shouldn’t be going to a public event. You shouldn’t be going to work. You shouldn’t be going on the subway,” he said.

De Blasio also announced financial assistance programs for small businesses in the city that have been impacted by the coronavirus.

Many businesses in Chinatown, Flushing and Sunset Park have reported a drop in foot traffic because of fears over the virus. Gregg Bishop, the commisioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Service, said he's hearing about sales declines of 40 to 80 percent, mainly from restaurants and catering halls.

"We have two forms of relief we're going to implement right away," the mayor said.

The first program includes a $75,000 interest-free loan for businesses with up to 100 employees. The businesses must document sales declines of 25 percent.

The second is a grant for businesses with under five employees. It covers 40 percent of payroll costs for two months—an average of about $6,000 to help businesses retain employees.

There were 105 cases in New York state, and 13 in New York City, as of Sunday. The largest concentration of cases, 82, was in Westchester. A scattering of others were upstate in Saratoga County, on Long Island and in Rockland and Ulster counties.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has flu-like symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC advises those who are mildly ill with the virus to stay home and avoid public areas to avoid spreading it.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)