Nearly quarter of NYC Transit workers report having COVID: Study

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A new study has found that nearly a quarter of New York City Transit workers who were surveyed reported having COVID-19.

The pilot study was conducted by researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health and the results were released Tuesday.

A survey of NYC bus and subway workers found that 24% said they contracted COVID-19 and 90% said they fear getting sick at work.

The surveys were sent to a sample of transit workers, and they received 645 responses back.

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When the coronavirus pandemic first hit New York City, shuttering businesses and putting a pause on normal daily life for many, the MTA continued service to make sure health care workers, grocery and delivery workers and other essential employees could get to and from work.

It was reported that thousands of transit workers were infected with the virus and more than 90 TWU Local 100 members died, and in total, more than 130 MTA workers lost their lives due to COVID-19.

"Through gaining a deeper understanding of how COVID-19 has impacted transit workers' health and quality of life, we can determine how to best support them and protect them moving forward," said Robyn Gershon, clinical professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Global Public Health. "Our findings on workers' anxiety are concerning, given that we conducted the survey in August, months after the peak of the pandemic in New York City."

TWU Local 100 Union asked NYU to study COVID-19 and the transit workforce to better understand how it spread, what the impacts were and to guide recommendations on additional safety measures.

The union wants systemic screening of workers like they have at military academies and similar to what nursing home workers get.

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Gershon said she believes MTA employees should be among the first to get a vaccine when it is available.

"I absolutely agree because they have intense exposure with a large number of the general public, many of whom still are not wearing masks," she said.

TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano released the following statement:

"We put the city on our shoulders when the pandemic hit, and we are still carrying it forward. It has been a heavy burden. There are now more protective measures against the virus in place than when the crisis erupted, but we can't let up. We need stay vigilant, and push forward with new and better ways to defend our blue-collar heroes still moving millions of riders a day."

The MTA responded to what they call a "poll, not a study."

"To be clear, this is a poll, not a study," MTA Chief Communications Officer Abbey Collins said. "This individual surveyed a fraction of the NYC Transit workforce, and captured only those who were most motivated to participate. The facts are these: the MTA's overall COVID infection rate for transit workers is approximately 7%. Both city and state antibody testing results are nearly four times as high - with up to 27% of the overall population. The self-reported nature of this poll would unquestionably also drive the numbers higher. We hope any future 'study' is based on science, data and facts as the MTA's highest priority remains the safety of our workforce."

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Click here to read more on the study.

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