New York University

NYU School of Global Public Health to Study Impact of COVID-19 on Transit Workers

Research aims to better understand physical and mental health risks for New York City’s bus and subway workers during pandemic
23-Jul-2020 2:25 PM EDT, by New York University

Newswise — NYU School of Global Public Health is embarking on a series of studies to evaluate the risks and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on one of the city’s essential workforces: transit workers. This research will be conducted in coordination with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100, representing more than 40,000 New York City bus and subway workers. 

New York City has the largest and most complex mass transit system in the United States, with 7.6 million weekday riders on its subways and buses prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has largely continued service on subways and buses throughout the pandemic to ensure that doctors, nurses, grocery and delivery workers, first responders, and other essential workers could continue to get to work and keep the city running. 

“Our research aims to identify and better understand the individual and workplace factors that put this essential workforce at risk for COVID-19, in an effort to protect their health and wellbeing,” said Robyn Gershon, clinical professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Global Public Health, who will lead the research project. “We need to address this important gap in our knowledge about occupational exposure to coronavirus, and use these findings to determine what additional protective measures are needed going forward.” 

"This will be the first time outside public health experts gather information from transit workers about their experiences during the pandemic and put the MTA’s actions under the microscope. We can’t bring back our fallen heroes. But we can keep working to improve safety on the job and that’s what this is all about," said Tony Utano, president of TWU Local 100. “Local 100 has been consulting with experts from the NYU School of Global Public Health for several months as we faced this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. This is an important next step not just for NY transit workers but transit workers everywhere.” 

The first part of the research project is a pilot study, consisting of virtual focus groups, interviews, and an anonymous survey of transit workers. The survey will be conducted this month with roughly 200 workers. 

The pilot study will help the researchers to evaluate the risks transit workers faced on the job during the first months of the pandemic, and whether the actions the MTA took to protect its workforce—use of masks, additional cleaning and disinfecting, employee health screenings, and social distancing—came soon enough and were effective. The study will also explore other risk factors for workers, such as pre-existing health conditions, age, and race and ethnicity, as well as how the pandemic may be hurting transit workers’ mental health. 

Beyond the pilot study looking at the first few months of the pandemic, the researchers are planning more extensive studies of thousands of transit workers for later this year, and will apply for federal grants to support them. 

Gershon, an occupational and environmental health scientist, leads a research team with extensive experience working with unions and front-line workers employed in high-risk jobs. Gershon has conducted many studies focused on worker safety, including emergency evacuation of high-rise buildings (following the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center), needlestick prevention and safety in hospitals, psychosocial work stress in law enforcement, and a previous collaboration with TWU Local 100 on transit workers, noise exposure, and hearing loss.  

Working with Gershon will be Alexis Merdjanoff, clinical assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health and an expert on disasters and inequality, and Rachael Piltch-Loeb, postdoctoral preparedness fellow at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, associate research scientist at NYU School of Global Public Health, and an expert on emergency preparedness and crisis communications. Additional expertise will be provided to the team by Yale epidemiologist and infectious disease expert David Vlahov; Beverly-Xaviera Watkins, an expert on health disparities and community-engaged research, and the daughter of a retired transit worker; and industrial hygienist Jonathan Rosen. 

Using their expertise in public health disaster management, infection control, and prevention of occupational injury and illness, the researchers will develop a “Best Practice Guidelines and Recommendations” document in conjunction with TWU Local 100 union officials and the MTA; the document is expected to be completed in the fall.  

“Ensuring the health of transit workers is especially important as governments and businesses move forward with reopening,” added Gershon. “A healthy transit workforce is critical to the city’s economic recovery and sustainability.”


About the NYU School of Global Public Health

At the NYU School of Global Public Health (NYU GPH), we are preparing the next generation of public health pioneers with the critical thinking skills, acumen, and entrepreneurial approaches necessary to reinvent the public health paradigm. Devoted to employing a nontraditional, interdisciplinary model, NYU GPH aims to improve health worldwide through a unique blend of global public health studies, research, and practice. The School is located in the heart of New York City and extends to NYU's global network on six continents. Innovation is at the core of our ambitious approach, thinking and teaching. For more, visit:


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 4146
Newswise: Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19: Your Mental Health
Released: 25-Nov-2020 2:15 PM EST
Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19: Your Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaped more than half a year of our lives, canceling plans, upending livelihoods and causing feelings of grief, stress and anxiety. And Cedars-Sinai mental health experts say the pandemic could be shaping our mental health well into the future.

Released: 25-Nov-2020 12:45 PM EST
SARS-CoV-2 mutations do not appear to increase transmissibility
University College London

None of the mutations currently documented in the SARS-CoV-2 virus appear to increase its transmissibility in humans, according to a study led by UCL researchers.

Newswise: COVID-19 vaccine candidate tested preclinically at UAB nears first clinical test in people
Released: 25-Nov-2020 11:05 AM EST
COVID-19 vaccine candidate tested preclinically at UAB nears first clinical test in people
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Maryland-based Altimmune Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company, has submitted an Investigational New Drug, or IND, application to the United States Food and Drug Administration to commence a Phase 1 clinical study of its single-dose intranasal COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AdCOVID.

Released: 25-Nov-2020 11:05 AM EST
BIDMC researchers reveal how genetic variations are linked to COVID-19 disease severity
Beth Israel Lahey Health

New research BIDMC-led sheds light on the genetic risk factors that make individuals more or less susceptible to severe COVID-19.

Newswise: blog-pandemic-scenario-planning-lg-feature2.jpg
Released: 25-Nov-2020 11:05 AM EST
Pandemic Ups Game on Scenario Planning in The Arts
Wallace Foundation

Researcher/Author of new toolkit and report seeks to help arts and culture organizations add scenario planning to their strategic toolbox

Released: 25-Nov-2020 10:30 AM EST
Young people's anxiety levels doubled during first COVID-19 lockdown, says study
University of Bristol

The number of young people with anxiety doubled from 13 per cent to 24 per cent, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown 1, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

Newswise: 249837_web.jpg
Released: 25-Nov-2020 10:20 AM EST
Tracking COVID-19 trends in hard-hit states
Louisiana State University

Currently, there are over 10 million confirmed cases and more than 240,000 casualties attributed to COVID-19 in the U.S.

Released: 25-Nov-2020 9:55 AM EST
More Health Systems Join National #MaskUp Campaign
Cleveland Clinic

Many more health systems are joining the national #MaskUp campaign encouraging Americans to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following safety guidelines. Over just a few days, another 19 health systems with hundreds of hospitals united with 100 health systems nationwide with hospitals numbering in the thousands. The public service campaign is critical to the health and well-being of all Americans. It is a plea from healthcare professionals everywhere: wear a mask and follow other precautions to save lives and help get our country back on its feet.

Newswise: delaterre_jpeg.jpg
Released: 25-Nov-2020 7:35 AM EST
Warwick scientists design model to predict cellular drug targets against Covid-19
University of Warwick

The covid-19 virus, like all viruses relies on their host for reproduction

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 30-Nov-2020 10:00 AM EST Released to reporters: 24-Nov-2020 5:35 PM EST

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 30-Nov-2020 10:00 AM EST The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Showing results

110 of 4146