Nearly a quarter of New York City’s frontline transit workers may have contracted COVID-19 — and they probably contracted the virus at work, a preliminary survey released Monday by New York University shows.
In July the NYU School of Global Public Health embarked on a series of studies to evaluate the risks and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on one of the city’s essential workforces: transit workers. This research represented more than 40,000 New York City bus and subway workers.
New York City has the largest and most complex mass transit system in the United States, with 7.6 million weekday riders on its subways and buses prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has largely continued service on subways and buses throughout the pandemic to ensure that doctors, nurses, grocery and delivery workers, first responders, and other essential workers could continue to get to work and keep the city running.
In response to questionnaires, out of 645 frontline NYC Transit employees, 24% reported a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or antibody test — significantly higher than an assessment released by Gov. Cuomo on May 13, which analyzed antibody tests and found that 14% of transit workers had contracted the disease.
The team found that those who contracted the disease did not live in areas with high infection rates, meaning they likely got sick on the job.
Tony Utano, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents roughly 40,000 MTA workers and collaborated with NYU on the research, said his members should be given rapid testing to prevent another major outbreak.
“We put the city on our shoulders when the pandemic hit, and we are still carrying it forward. It has been a heavy burden,” said Utano. “We need to stay vigilant and push forward with new and better ways to defend our blue-collar heroes still moving millions of riders a day.”