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Cuomo: Find less crowded bus or rail car, as NFTA awaits guidance

If you’re commuting to and from work today via public transportation, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has a suggestion: find the least crowded rail car or wait for an emptier bus.

During a Sunday Long Island update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 virus – for which 105 New Yorkers have tested positive – Cuomo said health officials are urging the state’s workforce to avoid large gatherings of confined people so as to lessen the chance of spreading the disease.

"If you see a packed train car, let it go by, wait for the next train; same with if you're taking a bus," he said. "It's the density to proximity that we're trying to reduce."

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has taken several steps to confront the virus, spokeswoman Helen Tederous said Sunday, including a “stepped up” cleaning regimen on Metro Rail, in its stations, on Metro Bus and at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

“We’re always using high-grade cleaners, but they’re more in play now,” she said. “And our operators are already in ‘flu mode,’ so they’re prepped.”

(Erie County)

The authority expects further guidance from health officials in coming days, Tederous said, which could involve studying additional measures such as regular four-car trains to spread out passengers. Metro Rail now typically runs two- and three-car trains, which can be more crowded.

“We’ll know more this week,” she said, adding the NFTA is educating its ridership about safety precautions in the system, on its website, and via social media on how best to contain the virus that started in China and is now spreading throughout the nation and world.

So far, the authority has received no anecdotal evidence of riders leaving the transit system because of COVID-19 concerns, she said, though new data also expected this week should provide more definitive answers.

The governor, meanwhile, continued his appeals to private sector and government employers to consider steps that also reduce workforce density. He suggested that companies adopt and communicate to their employees a “liberal sick leave” policy that might encourage some to work from home.

He also raised the possibility of staggered work hours, while urging governments around the state to consider similar measures.

Cuomo on Saturday declared a state of emergency in New York to help contain spread of the virus, and said an array of state agencies and resources have been activated in response.

“We are continuing to test people and are working with hospitals and local governments to give them the resources they need to contain the spread of this virus,” he said.

[Related: Questions but few answers as school districts prepare for COVID-19]

[Related: Cuomo demands private lab testing for coronavirus as N.Y. cases rise to 105]

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