Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he is ordering New York City's subway authority to develop a cleaning plan for all trains after reports that the subway system has deteriorated, with trains filled with homeless people and crime proliferating.
Cuomo said he saw pictures in the Daily News of train cars that were filthy and disgusting and had homeless people living on them with all of their belongings. He added that some crimes have increased despite a 90% drop in ridership amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
"And it was not just the Daily News picture, it reflected what has been in the press and what people have been saying, which is the deterioration of the conditions in the subways," Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany.
He said he has ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to submit a full plan by Thursday on how it intends to disinfect every train every night to protect commuting essential workers. When asked if funds would be provided for the plan, Cuomo responded: "It's realistic. It's an essential. How realistic is it? What's the alternative?"
"Any essential worker who shows up and gets on a train should know that that train was disinfected the night before," Cuomo said.
Cuomo added that the subway conditions also pose a threat to the city's homeless population who lack protective face masks and gloves.
"Letting them endanger their own life and endanger the lives of others is not helping anyone," Cuomo said.
The MTA is governed by a 21-member board whose members are nominated by the governor, with four recommended by New York City's mayor, according to the MTA's website. Ken Lovett, a senior advisor to the MTA, said officials will submit a plan as Cuomo requested.
"We fully agree that we must do everything we can to keep our system and trains and buses as clean and as safe as possible. Following on our aggressive plan of disinfecting our stations twice each day and our full fleet every 72 hours, we are completing a plan to further enhance and increase the frequency of our cleaning," Lovett said.
Cuomo said starting Wednesday, the state will begin offering antibody testing for transit workers to determine if they've likely been infected and recovered.
An antibody test shows whether someone has been exposed to or potentially had the coronavirus and developed the antibodies to fight the infection. Antibodies don't guarantee immunity, but physicians say a positive antibody test indicates that a patient may have some level of protection against reinfection.
Earlier Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City will offer free coronavirus antibody testing to more than 150,000 health-care workers and first responders on the front line of the outbreak.
De Blasio said last week the issue of homelessness on the subways has prevailed for decades and disagrees with the statement that the situation is "out of control."
On Tuesday, de Blasio said he asked that 10 subway lines with high numbers of homeless riders be shut down from midnight to 5 a.m. so the terminals can be cleaned.