Workers in New Yorkâ€™s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) took measures into their own hands. They wore their own masks, brought their own bleach solutions to clean shared workspaces, and had bus passengers enter through the rear door and blocked them from sitting too close to drivers. Eventually, the MTA started to catch up. ButÂ at least 41 New York City transit workers have diedÂ of COVID-19, another 1,500 have tested positive for the virus, and more than 5,500 othersÂ are self-quarantining because they have symptoms. Thatâ€™s a huge hit forÂ a workforce of 70,000.
Itâ€™s having a ripple effect through the entire city. The MTA is so understaffed it canâ€™t keep up with even the reduced-by-25% schedule it had planned. Even with ridership down by over 90%, subway platforms and cars are crowded because trains arenâ€™t coming as often, which in turn increases the danger of the virus spreading through the crowds in the city that has become the epicenter of the disease.
Union officials pushed MTA bosses to hand out masks and other safety equipment earlier, but the organization stuck by the Centers for Disease Controlâ€™s advice against masks. Some workers who wore their own masks were told to take them off because they violated uniform policy.
Bus drivers, whose passengers walk right by them, have been particularly hard-hit, with at least 11 dead.
If you want a devastating illustration of how the United States has let down its working people, check out the picture up top of MTA cleaning staff in early MarchÂ and compare it with the one belowÂ of a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, being disinfected in late February.
This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on April 9, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributor at Daily Kos editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.