Q - I take the subway to work every day, should I wear a mask again since Covid is ticking up here in NYC? What are my chances of getting Covid on the subway? Does it matter how long my commute is?
A - COVID-19 is still around, and many people are still testing positive. While we do seem to be experiencing the downturn of the fall surge (viral load in wastewater is trending downward nationally this week, as are hospitalizations (-4%) and emergency department visits (-19%)), rates of COVID-19 are still a lot higher than they were over the summer.
COVID-19 disease has for the most part shifted to the mild end of the spectrum for most, thanks to vaccines as well as immunity most of us have acquired through infection. But in times when there is more covid around (like now), it is definitely a good idea to mask in certain situations, and one of those situations is definitely public transportation.
Six reasons why I recommend masking on public transportation:
1) Subway cars and buses are enclosed spaces with close contact and questionable ventilation. A well-fitting N95 or KN95 mask can provide a layer of protection.
2) Masks prevent not only COVID-19, but all respiratory viruses such as RSV, flu, parainfluenza, and others which may be surging at different times of the season.
3) Buses and trains are “cross sections” of the community sharing enclosed spaces. Thus, interactions on public transportation can foster viral transmission amongst groups that wouldn’t normally interact with each other.
4) People who are immunocompromised, over 65, or a person with a comorbid illness that puts them at greater risk of severe illness should consider masking in any indoor, enclosed/poorly ventilated spaces.
5) There is no mandate to wear a mask on public transportation anymore, but we can still think of masking not only as an additional layer of protection for yourself, but to protect other riders that might be more vulnerable.
6) If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 10 days, you should definitely wear a mask on public transportation