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Coronavirus Crisis

Wednesday’s Headlines: We’ve Seen the Light Edition

12:05 AM EDT on May 20, 2020

Critter Killer: The MTA’s new ultraviolet lamps flash to obliterate the coronavirus. Image: MTA

They’re ugly machines like the other ugly machines we’ve come to know in the time of COVID-19 — ventilators, CPAPs, 3D printers for making PPE and testing materials — but like those other ugly machines they promise to help keep us alive.

They’re the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new virus-killing ultraviolet lamps, and New York taxpayers just shelled out $1 million to buy 150 of them (which is just the pilot, of course). The MTA rolled out the new lamps with great fanfare, including a video press release demonstrating what the lamps look like in action — kind of a cross between a bug zapper and the laser-light show of a Dead & Company drum jam. 

Well, kinda.

The machines “emit pulses of ultraviolet light that zaps the virus, leaving subways and buses disinfected,” enthused NY1, going with the bug metaphor (as did Bloomberg). At amNY, Mark Hallum (or at least his headline writer) reached for a Springsteen reference: “COVID-19 to be ‘blinded by the light’ of UV flash units on subways and buses." The Post played it straight, speaking soberly of “virus-killing UV lamps.” (A more typically fun Post headline yesterday was something about a “Go Topless Jeep Weekend” in Texas. That’s a transportation-related story, right?)

The UV lamps follow the MTA’s shutdown of the subway system every night for four hours of disinfection, but it’s unlikely to be the last sanitary innovation we will see underground. According to the Washington Post, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines for reopening transit recommend that systems install hand-washing facilities or hand-sanitizer dispensers in stations (although MTA officials have already pronounced themselves leery of the latter devices, on the idea that New Yorkers would destroy them). 

In related news, the poor, broke, ridership-decimated MTA prompted another Post story yesterday, a thumbsucker on “What commuting in NYC will look like after the coronavirus,” and the Post also quoted Gov. Cuomo to the effect that the agency will “be better” for going through the “experience” of the coronavirus pandemic.

In other news:

    • Manhattan Institute fiscal expert Nicole Gelinas thinks the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which last week asked Congress for $3 billion, should be last in line for a federal bailout. “There is an obvious solution here,” she writes. “Close two of the airports, ­La Guardia and Newark, to passenger traffic, diverting all passenger flights to JFK. Split ­La Guardia’s cargo ­between JFK and Newark.” (NYP)
    • A Manhattan lawyer died of injuries from a motorcycle crash in Harlem last month. (NYP, NYDN)
    • President Trump’s latest evisceration of government accountability comes in the form of the firing of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general. (Yes, it’s hard to keep track of all the fired inspectors general.) (AP)
    • Friend of Streetsblog Christine Berthet penned an op-ed lamenting the coming return of cars to city streets. (Chelsea Community News)
    • Finally, we were as moved as Dan Rivoli by this graffiti tribute to fallen transit workers (via Twitter):

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