By Clayton Guse
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — Yo, New Yorkers — you want to survive on the subway in the time of COVID-19?
It’s easy — you just do what you always do: Sit there sullenly. Say nothing to panhandlers or the boisterous youths delivering a “showtime” performance.
And shut your trap to the person next to you.
Normal, quiet breathing releases aerosol droplets that can suspend in the air for a short period of time, said David Vlahov, an epidemiologist at Yale University’s School of Nursing. Some of those droplets might contain coronavirus germs.
But more of those aerosol droplets spew forth from your mouth through loud speech. Those droplets can linger in the air for up to 14 minutes, Vlahov said.
So the less spewing you do, the safer it is for everyone else.
That’s why Vlahov believes the MTA should do more to persuade people not to talk on buses and trains.
“Discouraging talking on public transportation is a reasonable and prudent strategy to put in place,” Vlahov told the Daily News.
It’s not a message the MTA is loudly promoting to the 2.8 million people who are back riding buses and trains on an average weekday.
MTA officials have considered adding “No Talking” signs on trains. But so far, the agency has not been willing to take that extra step.
“While we continue to consider all options to keep people safe, we believe the best precaution people can take to stop the spread, contain aerosols, and protect themselves and those around them is to wear a mask,” said MTA spokesman Ken Lovett.
Straphangers face a possible $50 fine if they refuse to wear a mask while riding.
The MTA has posted graphics that slyly suggest talking can transmit the disease.
But Vlahov believes hinting at the idea that talking transmits COVID-19 isn’t enough. He says signs directly saying so are a good idea.
Discouraging people from speaking or talking in public transportation — subways, buses and even building elevators — “makes sense to reduce risk of spreading droplets and aerosols that can transmit infection,” said Vlahov.
“When distancing from each other is challenging to do, then talking should be discouraged during the time of being in a crowded enclosed space,” he said.
“This adds to the effectiveness of wearing masks, regular hand washing and, as the MTA is already doing, disinfecting surfaces.”
Masks are good, Vlahov said — but it might be better if the MTA also advised riders to put a sock in it.
“Masks are not vaccines,” he said. “So we’d want to add whatever additional practices we can to minimize transmission.”
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