MTA blames 'sluggish' WHO, CDC as its coronavirus death toll mounts - New York Post
- 2 May 2020
April 8, 2020 | 3:36pm
In the face of the MTA’s mounting coronavirus death toll, the transit agency on Wednesday pointed the finger at federal and global health authorities for its own slow crawl to distribute masks to workers.
“The only ‘sluggish’ response has been on the part of the [WHO and CDC], whose guidelines against widespread use of masks the MTA (a transportation organization, not a medical provider) initially followed but has since disregarded,” MTA Chairman Pat Foye wrote in a response to reporting about the on the agency’s well-documented struggle to protect its workforce.
“Only last week — after the MTA acted and we recommended our customers wear face coverings — did the CDC change course and recommend Americans wear masks. The WHO has still not acted.”
Nearly three dozen city bus and subway workers have died from the virus so far, and thousands more have called out sick, confounding the agency’s ability to accommodate dangerous crowds as service suffers.
Foye himself has tested positive for COVID-19.
Transit leaders only started giving out masks to workers on March 27 — weeks after reluctantly permitting workers to wear them at all.
Foye acknowledged that withholding the masks went against the agency’s longstanding pandemic response plan, which he said “did not contemplate … that medical guidance during this specific period would be not to use certain stockpiled items for all employees.”
The MTA has doled out 460,000 “N95 and surgical masks” as of Wednesday, Foye said.
But workers worry the agency’s supply is insufficient.
“It’s like they’re making it up as they go along,” one transit source told The Post. “They’re giving the operators N95 masks labeled single-use, and they’re giving them instructions on how to clean them, saying they’re supposed to keep it for five days.”
The MTA’s challenges extend beyond personal protective equipment. As employees sick calls soared in late March, the agency’s coronavirus hotline collapsed, leaving transit workers in the dark about how to proceed.
Foye’s letter did not acknowledge any institutional missteps beyond mask distribution.
“Since March 1, when the first case of COVID-19 was identified in New York, the MTA has taken aggressive action to protect the health and safety of our heroic workforce on the frontlines of this crisis,” he said.
“We have implemented our plan and made necessary changes in real time as we deal with this unprecedented public health crisis.”