With COVID infection rates steady at just under 8%, there’s big talk from Mayor Eric Adams and others about taking precautions and protecting ourselves as well as others. But it’s all just political happy talk as lax enforcement of simple mask-wearing continues unchecked throughout New York City.
by David Stone
COVID Infections Welcomed on Roosevelt Island
Saturday morning, a friend who dreads COVID exposure rode the Roosevelt Island Tram across the East River for lunch.
“Many without masks,” she texted while waiting to board. Once on the Tram, she tried escaping the worst offenders by bracing herself against a window. There were no announcements about face masks and no Public Safety Officers in a cabin packed with tourists.
No surprise. At The Daily, we’ve got a steady stream of complaints about maskless passengers on the Tram and Red Buses. For the most part, there is no enforcement, no protection against selfish bastards freely putting everyone else at risk.
The risks of not wearing face masks on public transit during a COVID epidemic are well-known and hardly disputed.The Catch Me If You Can: One Woman’s Journey to Every Country in the World
“The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to this virus,” the CDC advises, adding that, “Covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough, washing your hands often, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick are all excellent ways to reduce your chances of getting sick.”
“Covering your mouth and nose with a mask or cloth face covering when around people outside of your home, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain,” the CDC continues, “is an additional way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
It’s simple enough. If we’re going to get through this epidemic without another shutdown, people need to wear masks on public transit.
So, why aren’t they?
Part of the reason is that many see face masks as an imposition, a political statement or both. In today’s heated climate, some see wearing a mask as kowtowing to what they perceive as an overblown crisis.
It’s no surprise that people are confused. The messaging has been contradictory from the start.
But there’s another, more practical reason why face masks aren’t being enforced on public transit: The MTA can’t do it without help.
“The NYPD is responsible for maintaining order and enforcing the law on our subways and buses,” the MTA confirms. “We continue to urge all New Yorkers to wear face coverings.”
In other words, it’s not the MTA’s job to police face masks. That task falls to the NYPD, which has been notably absent during the COVID crisis.
COVID Infections and the NYPD
Despite Mayor Adams’s promise to “flood” the subways with officers, that never happens. In recent weeks, we’ve seen cops in the subways three times.
The first two were an embarrassment to law enforcement. Groups of four cops chatted in areas above the platforms and trains. Some checked their phones. Others did anything but protect New Yorkers.
All but a few went without face masks.
NYPD sets an example, and increasing numbers of others follow. Less than at any time during the pandemic, those responsible for helping us stay well fail at their jobs.
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