New York City subway services will be curbed starting this week as another wave of COVID-19 infections hits the city resulting in rescheduled stops, longer passenger waiting times, and staff shortages.
“This Monday through Thursday, trains will run less frequently than usual,” said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in a tweet on Monday. “Like everyone in New York, we’ve been affected by the COVID surge. We’re taking proactive steps to provide the best, most consistent service we can. That means you may wait a little longer for your train.”
The transit authority has requested passengers to check their website or message them before heading out to ensure train timings and scheduled stops in specific stations.
COVID-19 cases have recently surged in New York City from Dec. 1, when the 7-day average of new cases was less than 2,000, to Dec. 23 which saw nearly 22,000, based on official data. Hospitalizations have also surged, but deaths remain steady.
The surge comes despite the fact that 80.5 percent of the city’s population has received at least one dose, and 71.7 percent are considered fully vaccinated as of Dec. 28.
Omicron, the new CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus variant, is the dominant strain in the country at the moment. Observations by international scientists show that Omicron poses mild symptoms, requiring fewer hospitalizations than the Delta variant.
MTA has not elaborated on the infection rate within the organization that led to the rescheduling of trains. The MTA’s policy requires workers to provide proof of vaccination or take weekly COVID-19 tests.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said at least 80 percent of MTA employees are fully inoculated, CNN reported.
The organization has reported staff shortages as a reason for train delays. Some crews are expected to get reallocated as well.
“By reducing scheduled service, we’re able to re-allocate train crews where they’re needed, rather than cancel individual trips. We’re also working quickly to implement New York State’s revised quarantine guidelines for essential workers, which will help with staff shortages,” MTA added to the earlier tweet.
Some of the replies for the tweet include one from Evan Taylor who said, “Wouldn’t less trains mean more people on each train? How is this preventing the spread of COVID when people need to take the train regardless to go to work.”
Another Twitter user, Maria BYNC, commented, “So you will provide less service to those of us who still have to get to work on time and you will raise the fare next year. Your service is always delayed, every single day. The worse, mediocre service, yet you expect us to pay your salary.”
Daily subway ridership has also gone down from about 5.5 million people using the service during pre-pandemic in 2019 to a post-pandemic high of 3.3 million in October 2021.
On Monday, the MTA launched its free COVID-19 testing program at Grand Central Terminal and the Times Square-42nd Street subway stations. The tests are available seven days a week, with more stations scheduled to be providing the service soon.
Besides the subway, shortages have been reported for ambulances within New York City. “Some people had to wait hours for an ambulance, so it’s dangerous to the public. It’s dangerous to our men and women because they are being overworked,” Oren Barzilay, who heads Local 2507, the union representing EMTs and paramedics, said to CBS New York.
The famous New Year’s Eve celebrations have also been curbed from the typical 60,000 crowd to below 15,000, and all participants will be required to show proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test result.