(Reuters) - New York state will hire thousands of people to trace the contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus and halt early-hour New York City subway service to disinfect the trains every day, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.
Cuomo announced the initiatives as the state hardest hit by the outbreak looks to ease restrictions on social life and businesses with a massive public transport system that is clean and safe for riders and transit workers.
Cuomo said New York City’s subway system would be shut between 1 and 5 a.m. ET so that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that oversees the trains, can conduct an unprecedented cleaning program.
“This is a daunting challenge,” Cuomo told a daily briefing. “The entire public transport system in downstate New York will be disinfected every 24 hours.”
Cuomo also detailed plans to recruit from 6,400 to 17,000 people across the state to handle contact tracing, a process for identifying the contacts of a person who has tested positive for an infectious disease.
Health experts say that contact tracing is critical to isolating potentially contagious people in order to limit further outbreaks.
Cuomo said that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, in coordination with Johns Hopkins University, would oversee the recruitment and training of the contact tracers and make the program available to governments worldwide.
reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut and Maria Caspani and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller