Guidance lacking from Trump administration for mass transit to combat outbreak

FILE PHOTO: A man enters the subway station as a MTA worker disinfects the station in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. transit system operators have received little guidance from the Trump administration on issues ranging from cleaning trains, buses and ferries to combat the spread of coronavirus to what to do if a shutdown of their commuter networks is required.

In an American Public Transportation Association conference call on Friday with more than 1,000 participants, K. Jane Williams, acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), said that while the agency “is carefully obviously monitoring the situation, we have not issued any directives or guidance on system shutdowns.”

As the number of U.S. coronavirus cases has risen, reaching more than 230 in 21 states as of Friday, mass transit agencies are scrambling to find ways to protect their ridership.

But Williams had little to tell transit agencies about cleaning and disinfecting regimens outside of steps taken by transit providers in Washington state, which has had a cluster of cases, and elsewhere.

“FTA does not have specific vehicle cleaning guidelines,” she said.

On the call, an official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged transit agencies to work with local health departments and to clean “high-touch surfaces” once a day using products registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their effectiveness against viruses.

This week, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it was “significantly increasing the frequency and intensity of sanitizing procedures at each of its stations and on its full fleet of rolling stock.”

Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Dan Burns and Tom Brown

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