NEW YORK CITY — The MTA will blast its fleet with ultraviolet light in hopes of killing off the virus that causes novel coronavirus, officials announced Tuesday.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority will use a UV light recently proven to kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, in hopes of better disinfecting its fleet, announced Chairman and CEO Pat Foye.
"These UV lights that we have on site today effectively kill the virus that causes COVID-19," said Foye. "We believe this is a big deal for the MTA."
This form of intense light has been used for more than a century to kill bacteria and viruses, but only recently did Columbia University's Irving Medical Center prove it could kill the COVID-19 bug, said Dr. David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research.
"We've shown the UV light used ... is very efficient at killing the SARS-CoV-2," Brenner said, noting his findings had yet to be peer-reviewed.
"There is still much work to be done but this is a significant and promising new development."
UVC light has been used to disinfect buses in Shanghai, China, according to a BBC report that noted its intense rays can be harmful to humans.
"UVC is really nasty stuff – you shouldn't be exposed to it," Dan Arnold, an UV Light Technology employee told the BBC. "If your eyes are exposed… you know that gritty feeling you get if you look at the sun? It's like that times 10, just after a few seconds."
A demo shows the lamps blasting blinding white light through an empty subway car in extremely short and repeated bursts.
Should the program prove successful, UV treatments will be expanded to the Long Island Railroad and Metro North, officials said.
The MTA is currently disinfecting about 3,500 daily with 135,000 buses and 94,000 para-transit vehicles disinfected to date, said New York City Transit interim president Sarah Feinberg.
This massive disinfection effort came at the behest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and caused the MTA to cut its late night service between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for the first time in the system's history.
"We're always think about what more we can do to keep our customers safe," said Feinberg. "The truth is our system is going to look very different when this crisis is over."