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One in four NYC transit workers has caught Covid-19 according to a union survey


Almost one in four of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers may have contracted coronavirus, a new study has found.

The numbers – that come from a preliminary survey conducted by New York University with the help of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) – are much higher than previously reported. The virus has killed at least 131 MTA workers.

An anonymous survey was sent to around 3,000 TWU workers in August, according to Fox 5 New York.

Of those to receive the survey, 645 completed the questionnaire with 24 percent of respondents reporting that they have had a COVID-19 positive diagnosis or antibody test.

The study also found that 90 percent of the transit workers fear getting sick at work, with roughly 40 percent indicating that they have underlying health problems that could increase the risk of complications from coronavirus.  

In response to the study, the MTA has disputed its findings and blasted the report saying ‘this is a poll, not a study’, saying their data shows only 3,921 of their 70,000 strong workforce have contracted the virus.

Almost one in four of New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers may have contracted coronavirus, a new study has found. Pictured: An MTA worker wears personal protective equipment at the Grand Army Plaza station in April

Almost one in four of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers may have contracted coronavirus, a new study has found. Pictured: An MTA worker wears personal protective equipment at the Grand Army Plaza station in April

NYU researchers launched the ambitious study in July in an attempt to learn why so many of the MTA’s 70,000 employees had caught the virus and how the pandemic has impacted their mental health.  

Robyn Gershon, the NYU epidemiologist leading the research, said coronavirus likely spread within transit workplaces, based on the fact that those who contacted the virus did not live in areas with high infection rates.

‘From our New York City data, transit workers were almost twice as likely to be living in a low-risk neighborhood if they were positive, so it looks like it probably was work related,’ said Gershon. 

‘We’ll probably never be able to fully tease that apart, but we’re doing more digging.’

Along with her team, Gershon is looking to receive a grant from the National Institutes of Health to enable them to continue the study, which could last years.

The full study will dive deeper into the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of the city’s transit workers, large numbers of whom were infected in March and April causing the MTA to temporarily cut back it’s subway service. 

Large numbers of MTA workers were infected in March and April causing the MTA to temporarily cut back it's subway service. Pictured: An MTA worker disinfects a Manhattan subway station in March

Large numbers of MTA workers were infected in March and April causing the MTA to temporarily cut back it’s subway service. Pictured: An MTA worker disinfects a Manhattan subway station in March

NYU researchers launched the ambitious study in July in an attempt to learn why so many of the MTA's 70,000 employees had caught the virus and how the pandemic has impacted their mental health. Pictured: MTA workers disinfect turnstiles in Manhattan

NYU researchers launched the ambitious study in July in an attempt to learn why so many of the MTA’s 70,000 employees had caught the virus and how the pandemic has impacted their mental health. Pictured: MTA workers disinfect turnstiles in Manhattan

Gershon has experience conducting similar investigations. She previously headed a probe into the evacuation of the World Trade Centres during the 9/11 terror attacks.

Her findings led to changes in the city’s fire code, but now she fears MTA workers could suffer from PTSD, much in the same way 9/11 first responders did following the attack in 2001.

‘Long-term PTSD is devastating to your life. We followed up with the World Trade Center study 16 years after … and many of them have severe impact,’ Gershon said, according to New York Daily News.

‘They can’t leave their apartments. They can’t work. They’ve gotten divorces. That’s what we don’t want to happen to this group.’ 

Robyn Gershon, the NYU epidemiologist leading the research, fears that the pandemic could have long-term PTSD effects on many transit workers. Pictured: An MTA employee wearing a face mask works at Grand Central Terminal in New York on October 16

Robyn Gershon, the NYU epidemiologist leading the research, fears that the pandemic could have long-term PTSD effects on many transit workers. Pictured: An MTA employee wearing a face mask works at Grand Central Terminal in New York on October 16

The MTA disputed the study’s findings, arguing that the initial results are a poll rather than a study, and saying that it only surveyed a small number of its workforce, with its data showing that 3,921 – just 7.4 percent – have caught COVID-19.

In a statement released to Fox 5 News, the organization said: ‘To be clear, this is a poll, not a study. 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 percent.

‘Both city and state antibody testing results are nearly four times as high – with up to 27 percent of the overall population. The self-reported nature of this poll would unquestionably also drive the numbers higher,’ the statement said.

‘We hope any future “study” is based on science, data and facts as the MTA’s highest priority remains the safety of our workforce.’

The MTA disputed the study's findings, highlighting that the initial results are a poll rather than a study, and saying that it only surveyed a small number of its workforce, with its data showing that just 3,921 - 7.4 per cent - caught COVID-19

The MTA disputed the study’s findings, highlighting that the initial results are a poll rather than a study, and saying that it only surveyed a small number of its workforce, with its data showing that just 3,921 – 7.4 per cent – caught COVID-19

But Tony Utano, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents roughly 40,000 MTA workers and collaborated with NYU on the research, called on his members to be given rapid testing to avoid another outbreak.

‘We put the city on our shoulders when the pandemic hit, and we are still carrying it forward. It has been a heavy burden,’ he said. 

‘We need to stay vigilant and push forward with new and better ways to defend our blue-collar heroes still moving millions of riders a day.’ 

According to data shared by the New York Times, 259,920 coronavirus cases have been reported in New York City, with 32,998 people dying as a result of the virus.

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