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Mayor Bill de Blasio orders NYC subways and buses block off alternate seats

New York City buses and subways should look different when the city begins to ease coronavirus restrictions next week, with hand sanitizer in the stations and social distancing markers in place, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

'I want to see that everywhere you go, whether it is in a subway station, on the platform or on the train or on a bus there are markings telling you exactly where to be,' de Blasio said at his daily briefing.

De Blasio proposed that alternate seats on every train and bus should be blocked off to prevent people from sitting next to each other, though he did not specify how this would be accomplished.

New York City is due to enter Phase 1 of reopening on Monday, allowing resumption of construction, manufacturing and retail sales through curbside pickup. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that New York City buses and subways should look different when the city begins to ease coronavirus restrictions next week

Chains block the front of the MTA bus during the coronavirus pandemic on May 30 in New York City. The city will finally begin to reopen on Monday

Ridership on subways and buses is expected to increase when the city enters the first phase of New York state's region-by-region, four-step reopening process, and transit officials say they are taking steps to prevent a flareup of the virus.

Officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in a letter to de Blasio's administration Tuesday that they're asking employers to stagger shifts and continue to allow for remote work.

The authority is testing hand sanitizer dispensers and social distancing decals, an MTA spokesperson said. 

The daily closure of the subway system between 1am and 5am for disinfecting will continue when the reopening starts.

Forty-nine additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported in New York state on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, marking the lowest number since the start of the pandemic.

A person wearing a mask on a moving subway on May 29 in New York City. Government guidelines encourage wearing a mask in public with strong social distancing in effect

NYC trains have occasionally seen rush hour crowding with essential workers, as seen on May 27. De Blasio said rush hour service would increase starting on Monday

The New York City subway will still shut down daily from 1am to 5am for disinfecting

On Monday, there were only 600 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City, which has a population of 8.6 million. 

City officials launched a contact tracing program this week, and succeeded in reaching more than half of the people who tested positive on Monday.

'On Day 1 of the program, seeking to reach several hundred people and have what could be an hour conversation with each of them was a tall order,' Dr. Ted Long, the head of the city´s contact tracing program, said at a briefing. 

Long said the fact that the contact tracers actually got through to more than half of the new cases 'shows that the system we're setting up is working.'

The city has hired 1,700 people for its contact tracing effort and needs to reach 2,500 in order to meet Cuomo's target for entering the first phase of the state´s four-step reopening process. 

The contact tracers are placing people infected with the virus in hotel rooms if they need to isolate themselves away from their families as well as reaching out to the close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19.

Asked if the past week's protests over the death of George Floyd might spark a new wave of infections, Long encouraged anyone who was at a protest to get tested for the coronavirus at one of the more than 150 free testing sites around the city. 

Floyd, who was black, died after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.

'It starts with the testing piece, which is why we´re extending the invitation we are to anybody that´s been out there at the protests, come in for a free test, it's close to where you live,' Long said. 'We'd love to have you.' 

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