New York subway service delays are feared as Omicron-fueled COVID cases hit workers

The latest wave of COVID-19 has dealt a further blow to the MTA workforce, with a growing number of positive tests among transit workers threatening to undermine metro and bus service.

According to internal MTA data obtained by LA VILLE, 169 metro workers said they tested positive for COVID in the seven days ending December 16 – a 156% increase from two weeks earlier, when 66 employees had tested positive. For the seven-day period ending Nov. 26, according to reports, 38 metro workers tested positive.

A year earlier, according to reports, 103 metro workers tested positive for the week ending December 18, 2020.

The MTA declined to comment on the figures, which show 60 workers tested positive in the subway department division that is responsible for maintaining signals and power, as well as 44 service delivery workers, whose ranks include train operators and conductors.

A spokesperson for the transport agency pointed to the general increase in COVID cases in the metropolitan area and said it was “having an impact” on the MTA, but declined to elaborate on how worker absences affect the metro and bus service.

“We are working with our social partners to ensure that we have teams available so that we can provide the best possible service, and are monitoring the situation closely through our strong vaccine or COVID test program,” the carrier said. lyrics, Eugene Resnick. “The MTA will continue to minimize any impact on service delivery by making adjustments accordingly. “

Ridership close to “normal”

The agency’s online metro performance dashboard shows that 92.4% of scheduled weekday trains operated during peak hours in November, the fourth consecutive month in which service delivery has increased. That figure rose to 93.8% on buses, helped in part by the addition of nearly 200 newly trained drivers. Performance statistics for December are not yet available.

The pandemic has taken enormous toll on the MTA workforce, with more than 170 employees dead and thousands more testing positive since the virus struck in the spring of 2020.

Subway ridership plunged more than 90% at the height of the pandemic and decimated MTA’s finances until the agency secured billions of dollars in federal emergency funding.

The rampant, pre-holiday spread of the Omicron variant came as metro ridership peaked over 3 million in the COVID era on several weekdays in December and bus use increased. approached 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

Omicron’s surge forced the cancellation of everything from holiday season to hockey games to Broadway performances. Yet leaders from President Joe Biden to Governor Kathy Hochul to Mayor Bill de Blasio have said there is no reason for the type of lockdown that has virtually crippled the city from mid-March 2020.

Eric Russell, 31, at the 125th Street stop on Line 1 on Wednesday
José Martinez / THE CITY

“In 2020, people were staying at home, people were working from home,” said Eric Russell, 31, after getting off a No.1 train at the 125th Street station. “Now the train seems overcrowded and it doesn’t matter if you come in the morning, noon or evening, so it’s a concern if workers test positive. “

More cases, fewer patients

The surge in coronavirus cases so far has not resulted in intensive care unit hospitalizations approaching spring 2020 figures, officials say.

Dr Mitchell Katz, head of the city’s hospital system, said on Wednesday that the 11 city-run medical centers had 54 COVID patients in intensive care on Wednesday, up from 970 in March last year.

Including private hospitals as well, some 220 patients were in intensive care in the five boroughs on Wednesday, which roughly matches where the figures were in early September. The city’s peak was 3,141 intensive care patients on April 11, 2020, during the deadliest period of the pandemic in New York City.

De Blasio on Wednesday called the city’s 10,991 new COVID cases over an average of seven days a “fall” as he announced the opening of seven other city-run test sites.

That will bring the total to 119 by the end of the week, he said as New Yorkers tired by the pandemic endured long lines and await the results. The huge demand prompted CityMD to temporarily close 13 outlets in the city, due to understaffing.

“Our job is to minimize lines at city-managed sites and at our partner sites,” said de Blasio. “You get the best experience, get the fastest possible results. “

Brooklynites line up at a COVID testing site along Flushing Avenue in Bushwick on December 21, 2021.

Brooklynites line up at a COVID testing site along Flushing Avenue in Bushwick on December 21, 2021.
Hiram Alejandro Durán / THE CITY

The city, starting Thursday, will distribute free home test kits to Pitches around the five arrondissements. New Yorkers who receive reminders at city-run immunization sites and those run by SOMOS Community Care will receive $ 100 through December 31.

On Monday, the MTA will begin offering walk-in COVID-19 testing at the Times Square-42nd Street subway complex from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at Grand Central Terminal from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. sites on New Year’s Day, the tests will roll out to five more metro stations next week.

Times Square-42nd Street and Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue / 74th Street stations are offering COVID-19 booster shots, which will also be available in Grand Central from December 27.

‘Whip through’

New York City Transit has steadily recovered from staff shortages caused by a hiring freeze that in June helped cancel more than 10,600 scheduled subway trips – the highest number since March 2020, when Employee sickness rates have skyrocketed.

In recent months, the agency has begun to rebuild the ranks of a workforce thinned by the hiring freeze and retirements. But officials from the MTA and Transport Workers Union Local 100 concede that subway riders will continue to feel the effects of the worker shortage until 2022.

“I use the service every day,” said Alex Rojas, 33, who was waiting for a No.1 train at the 79th Street stop. “So the delay in transit is going to backfire on my ability to get to work. “

Now the latest wave of COVID is standing in the way.

“Omicron is in full swing,” said JP Patafio, vice president of the Brooklyn Bus Operators Union. “It puts a huge strain on the service because you have so many absences. “

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