- The coronavirus outbreak has infected almost 4 million people globally, resulting in over 261,000 deaths.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press conference on April 24 that the coronavirus can live on public transit’s plastic and steel surfaces for 72 hours.
- We spoke to six experts for tips and tricks people can use to stay safe while taking public transportation.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Several public transportation agencies across the country are now taking steps to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus and subdue public fears of catching it.
“Be vigilant, but not anxious,” infectious disease specialist Avisheh Forouzesh who owns Advanced Infectious Disease Medical in New Jersey, told Business Insider in an interview. “The key is not to panic because we can’t live in a bubble.”
However, there are still different tips and tricks people can take to ensure that they don’t put themselves at any potential risk while taking public transit. For example, emerging and reemerging viral diseases expert Thomas Ksiazek at the University of Texas Medical Branch Health told Business Insider that hand sanitation is one of the most important ways to stay safe.
Keep scrolling to see what experts said, including advice from professor of infectious diseases and medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Bernard Camins and professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University Amira Roess.
Don’t touch your phone while you’re taking public transportation.
While one expert, Carol Shoshkes Reiss, professor of biology, neural science, and public health at New York University, claims it should be ok to use your phone on transit unless someone coughs directly onto it, several experts advise against using personal mobile devices while riding public transit.
While this may be a hard habit to curtail, Roess advises changing certain behaviours and patterns to remind yourself to not touch your phone. For example, put your phone in a place that it’s not normally in, such as a different part of your bag or a different pocket. That way, when you reach for your phone and it’s not in its usual place, you are reminded of why you put it elsewhere.
To be extra cautious, clean your phone screen with an antibacterial wipe, and wash your hands with soap and water after touching your phone.
Carry hand sanitizer and use it the moment you leave the bus, train, or subway.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press conference on April 24 that the coronavirus can live on public transit’s plastic and steel surfaces for 72 hours. Almost every expert suggests carrying hand sanitizer to use after exiting any form of public transportation to combat the possibility of catching coronavirus.
“If you don’t have access to water or soap right away, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” Forouzesh said. “That’s one thing that’s easy and everyone can do.”
Don’t touch your face.
Don’t touch your face, whether you’re on or off public transit. The CDC recommends avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, specifically.
If someone is coughing or sneezing, try to move away from them.
If someone is coughing or sneezing on the train or subway, you should either move to the other end of the railcar, or exit at the next stop and continue your commute in a different section. If you’re on a bus or a crowded train and can’t physically step away, face your back towards the person coughing.
“Don’t be downwind of the cough,” Reiss advised.
Wash your hands the moment you have access to soap and water.
Almost every expert reached by Business Insider and the CDC recommends that people wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after leaving public transit.
Reiss also recommended using a moisturizer to prevent your hands from drying due to constant washing.
Limit contact with train and bus poles.
If that’s not possible, disinfect your hands shortly after leaving public transit, and make sure to not touch your nose, eyes, and mouth after touching the poles or seats.
If you decide to use a napkin or tissue to hold onto the poles and railings, discard the tissue in an enclosed trash bin afterward.
If it’s possible, try to leave work a bit earlier or later to avoid packed public transit during rush hour.
Commuting on a packed train during rush hour is the antithesis of social distancing, which Ksiazek claims has been one of the most effective ways of curtailing the spread and transmission of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China where COVID-19 first originated.
Don’t eat or drink while on public transit.
Forouzesh recommends not eating or drinking while on public transit because there’s a higher chance you will touch your face.
Sanitize your bag and keep it off of the floor and other surfaces.
If you’re carrying a bag that may hit any surfaces on a train, bus, or subway, sanitize the bag. This includes the bottom of the bag, especially if it sits on the floor any time during your travels.
Carrying around sanitizing and disinfecting wipes will make this process easier and more convenient.
Avoid directly touching the turnstiles.
Turnstiles can be loaded with germs. If possible, push through with your hips instead of your hands.
Keep up with recommendations from the local department of health and CDC.
“Unfortunately there’s a lot of erroneous information out there right because of the public panic,” said Forouzesh. “But my best advice is to follow the CDC advice and don’t steer away from that.”
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