At the time Mayor Bill de Blasio was encouraging New Yorkers to go to the movies and get out and mingle, MIT economics professor/physician Jeffrey Harris believes people cramming into the NYC subway launched a “gathering storm” of a “rapid, exponential surge of infections” of coronavirus.
De Blasio wrote on March 2nd, “Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions. Here’s the first: thru Thurs. 3/5 go see ‘The Traitor.’ If ‘The Wire’ was a true story + set in Italy, it would be this film.”
Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions. Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see “The Traitor” @FilmLinc. If “The Wire” was a true story + set in Italy, it would be this film.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) March 3, 2020
Something else was set in Italy, the coronavirus pandemic, where Chinese ex-pats were bringing the virus from Wuhan. Visitors from Europe brought it to New York. They rode airplanes, subways, and buses.
In a research paper called, “The Subways Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City,” Harris reports that the subways were packed with five million riders a day. Harris overlaid the hot spots of the virus in NYC with the subway stations and found a correlation. “Maps of subway station turnstile entries, superimposed upon zip code-level maps of reported coronavirus incidence, are strongly consistent with subway-facilitated disease propagation.”
The economist and physician said, “New York City’s multitentacled subway system was a major disseminator — if not the principal transmission vehicle — of coronavirus infection during the initial takeoff of the massive epidemic [emphasis added]. Bus hubs may have served as secondary transmission routes out to the periphery of the city.”
And two weeks after his initial tweet encouraging New Yorkers to go see the movie The Traitor, de Blasio was scared straight by the national response, obviously realizing he’d been a laggard of Nancy Pelosi-visit-Chinatown-proportions.
The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle. Tomorrow, I will sign an Executive Order limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) March 16, 2020
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down “non-essential businesses” on March 20th after millions had gone through the turnstiles.
Harris continued in his paper’s abstract, “We know that close contact in subways is fully consistent with the spread of coronavirus, either by inhalable droplets or residual fomites left on railings, pivoted grab handles, [or] those smooth, metallic, vertical poles that everyone shares.”
Harris admits it’s not proof of causation, but there’s definitely a correlation:
Simple comparison of the two trends in Figure 1 cannot by itself answer questions of causation. The parallel between the continued high ridership on MTA subways and the rapid, exponential surge in infections during the first two weeks of March at best supports the hypothesis that the subways played a role. While the subsequent plummeting of ridership appears likewise to parallel the flattening of the reported incidence curve, the steep fall in the heights of the blue bars may just as well represent the public’s response to widespread publicity about the ferocity of the outbreak that had been [a] gathering storm for two weeks. As economists say, the precipitous drop in subway ridership may well have been endogenous.
Yet despite the obvious-sounding claims in the MIT study, The New York Post reports that some local professors take issue with its conclusion:
Hofstra University professor of public health Anthony Santella told The Post he was “not surprised” that there was a correlation, but questioned Harris’ conclusion.
“We’re talking about early March before the restrictive public health control measures went in place,” Santella said.
“It’s certainly not solely related to the subway system. It’s because of our own behaviors and when these other measures went into place.”
MTA chairman Pat Foye echoed that point in comments to reporters Wednesday afternoon, calling the study “flawed.”
Obviously, your grandpa who doesn’t know math could have predicted a correlation between crowded buses and trains and the spread of the disease, in addition to the white-lab-coated researchers at the Department of Duh Obvious at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But that’s the point. It should have been obvious. And while it may seem unfair to bring up such things now and lay them at the feet of politicians, I notice Democrats and their flying-monkey media do not accord the same to President Trump. By the first two weeks of March, the time this study says the New York City pandemic began a “rapid, exponential surge of infections,” President Trump had already stopped flights from China, declared a Public Health Emergency, imposed level 4 travel advisories on South Korea and Italy, banned travel to Iran, freed restrictions on getting testing and opening it to anyone referred by a doctor, gave the OK for vaccines to be developed and tested, green-lighted certified labs to develop and begin testing coronavirus testing kits, declared a National Emergency, granted emergency approval for the first two rapid diagnostic coronavirus tests and granted funding to get them going, stopped travel between the U.S. and Britain and Ireland, and was already working on supply chain issues.
You don’t have to like Trump to give him an atta boy for the job he’s done on this.
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