NY Governor Cuomo & Budget Director, Robert Mujica Say that being within Six Feet with a Mask on has been Shown to be Safe
MTA Board Member, Robert Mujica:
” Wearing a mask next to other people that are wearing masks, even if you’re not socially distancing has been safe. “
Note: I’ve waited until finally being able to ask NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio about this subject before posting this page. I’ve not been able to do so but was able to at least ask Ted Long, Executive Director of Test and Trace early this afternoon. The answer to which can be found near the bottom of this page.
New York Governor Cuomo and his Budget Director, Robert Mujica, had some words to say the other day about social distancing and the NYC subways. On May 26, during his daily COVID-19 Press Conference, the Governor would be asked about the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and its capacity to handle the onslaught of commuters to be using the system in the near future. This would be in reference to the upcoming expected Phase One re-opening of New York City. Both he and Mayor de Blasio have stated how 200 – 400,000 people would be returning to work; many of whom are expected to be using the city’s mass transit system.
The Governor had an “It is what it is” attitude about the subject. I’ve characterized it this way based upon my own sentiments as a Native New Yorker who’s ridden the subway all his life. Considering that, no, I don’t think they’re as safe as Mr. Cuomo is making them out to be. But I’m no doctor, I only play one on daytime TV.
He did mention the strict cleaning protocols he called into place some time back, and how that along with the wearing of masks should allow for ‘safe’ passage within the system. Sorry, the inclusion of that word ‘safe’ is my own doing.
I had little idea how much the word ‘safe’ could be open to opinion and a matter of perspective. But then, as I said, he never uttered the word.
” You have to see if that is an issue. Social Distancing, as we maintain it – in other circumstances – I don’t know if you’d be able to maintain strict social distancing on a bus or a train. I don’t think that’s reality. So they can’t do strict social distancing, but they can do the cleaning protocol, the disinfecting protocol. You have to wear a mask. You have to wear a mask, and that is going to be a part of the protocol – and they’re going to be doing the best they can to stagger volume on trains, etc. – and they are going to have personnel who are working to limit how many people can get onto a train and do the staging. “
Clean subways are nice. But contrary to Mr. Mujica’s (as shown below) reference to the CDC’s declaration, about surfaces not being a good transmission source, I’m not entirely convinced. I still can’t get past the idea of many, many individuals touching the same spot over and over again. Not to mention the occasional rebel who’ll travel on the subways sans any form of protection whatsoever.
On Memorial Day, I came across three individual men riding the same subway car in a matter of minutes. I got on the train at one spot. There was already one fella on board. Two stops later, another boarded. When I soon arrived at my destination, another got on the train…into the very same car. I’m willing to bet that it was just a coincidence. How can I be sure?
It’s not the only instance of bare-faced people I’ve seen in the transit system. Sure they say, it’s against the law. Hmmm, I haven’t seen, first hand, anyone enforcing that law.
The Governor’s Budget Director Robert F. Mujica, who’s also an MTA Board Member, basically stated that one’s safe in close proximity to another person as long as all involved are wearing a face covering. Since the subject revolved around riding a subway car, I’ve decided he meant “close proximity” even though he only said, “less than six feet”. Remember, being in close proximity to another person on the subway, and even on a subway platform is a foregone conclusion. It’s unavoidable.
Also, one can be stuck inside a subway car for extended periods of time.
Admittedly, one can’t fault the Governor since it’s not his fault for the subways being as they are: claustrophobic and tight-fitting. Likening them to sardine cans is right on the money. What can you do?
If you’re going to re-open a city as densely populated as New York then what CAN you do?
The question is: Is it Safe? ‘and if it is, then for God’s Sake, say so. Somehow, I don’t think their responses jive well enough for me to believe.
Yet, that’s not the point of my writing here. It’s not a rant but rather an observation to look back upon in the weeks to come after so many have begun returning to work and we’re looking at the COVID-19 infection numbers.
From the beginning of this pandemic, my own response to all this has revolved around common sense. In previous writings, within this site and online, I’ve continually ranted about using common sense. I was ranting about wearing any form of facial covering before any related advisement became official.
Will I still be traveling on the subways? Yes.
Will I be getting on a crowded train? No.
But that’s just me.
Keep in mind, on the day of this writing, I would attempt to pose the above subject to the Mayor. Since the Governor uttered the above words I’ve tried every day since, but failed to be picked on. Today I was able to ask Executive Director of Test and Trace, Ted Long during a conference which followed that of the Mayor’s. I asked Mr. Long a shortened version of that which I intended for the Mayor. He gave me a textbook answer as to what it takes to be safe and nothing more. Yet I was happy to have finally gotten this subject out there at least until I wrote this page and his answer was exactly along the lines of that which I expected.
Within hours, the Mayor issued a 7-Point plan on keeping New Yorkers safe within the Subways.
Robert F. Mujica Jr.:
” As the Governor’s mentioned, the MTA is cleaning all the cars, they’re doing the disinfecting. They’re also requiring wearing a mask and you’ll see throughout the guidelines for all the re-openings, to mitigate not being able to social distance, it’s wear a mask if you come within six feet. So that’s why you have the order on the MTA which is, always wear a mask because it’s more than likely that you will come within six feet and once you wear a mask you limit any risk. The CDC has also said, that surface contact with the virus is not a significant transmission of the disease. So that, combined with the disinfecting, combined with adding service. Right now, we’re at close to 80% of service with only 10% of the ridership. So as you go into Phase One you’re talking about increasing, by about 400,000 people, the number of people traveling to work. Trains can easily manage that. The guidelines will also talk about recommending staggered hours. Staggered start and stop times for employers which is something, frankly, we encouraged from before the coronavirus because we had high traffic. During certain times, peak traffic. All of those things together will mitigate it. But the MTA, the trains, the buses will be safer and cleaner than they were before. “
When asked about full platforms:
“Well, there’ll be people, as the governor mentioned, on platforms. There are other cars often on the same train. The initial middle cars can be full while other cars are empty. So we’ll encourage people to go into the other cars. They are not strict limits in the number of people that can get in but, like when you get into an elevator, you see 8 people get into an elevator you may sometimes say: Hold on I’ll wait for the next one. You can do the same thing with a train. Say, I might not get into it, but. Wearing a mask next to other people that are wearing masks, even if you’re not socially distancing has been safe. That’s what we’re encouraging in all of our guidelines and that’ll be consistent with the MTA.”