NEW YORK -- New York City will shut down its subway system each day from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to increase cleaning of trains and stations during the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
Subway trains, which had been disinfected at least once every 72 hours, will be cleaned once every 24 hours starting May 6.
Cuomo said buses, vans and other alternative transportation will be provided at no charge for essential workers to get around while the subway system is closed.
Cuomo said the increased cleaning is a "daunting challenge," but vital to keeping the system safe because it continues to be a place of high density. Images posted on social media in recent weeks have showed packed subway cars, leading police to increase social distancing enforcement.
"You have to disinfect every place a hand could touch on a subway car. Every rail, every pole, every door," Cuomo said. "Or, coughing, sneezing, wherever droplets could land."
Dozens of transit employees have died of the coronavirus and the system has become a haven for homeless people during the crisis.
Ridership plunged by 92% since the start of the pandemic, Cuomo said, and most of the people commuting are health care workers, first responders and other front-line workers who've been keeping the city running.
The shutdown affects the slowest part of the day for the subway system, in terms of ridership. Around 10,000 people ride the system overall during that period of time, Cuomo said.
Commuter trains serving Long Island and the city's northern suburbs will also be disinfected every 24 hours, he said.
"Think about it, the entire public transit system in downstate New York will be disinfected every 24 hours," Cuomo said. "We're doing a lot of things here that we've never done before."
NYC subway will halt overnight service for cleaning due to coronavirus
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