Vlahov Partners with NYU for COVID-19 Research on Transit Workers

July 30, 2020

David Vlahov, PhD, RN, FAAN is contributing his expertise as a nurse, an epidemiologist, and infectious disease authority to a team with the NYU School of Global Public Health to study the impact of COVID-19 on New York City’s transit workers. 

“Our research will assess the health risks transit workers encountered while performing their jobs not only during the early stages of the pandemic, but also as the pandemic has progressed to lifting restrictions and with concerns about resurgence and an eventual vaccine,” Vlahov said. “The study also aims to assess the effectiveness of measures such as personal protective equipment, social distancing, and employee health screenings. Risk factors such as age, race, and pre-existing health conditions will also be analyzed.” 

Vlahov, who lives in Manhattan, is joining a team of researchers led by Robyn Gershon, DrPH, clinical professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Global Public Health. The group also includes YSN’s Senior Research Scientist in Nursing Sangchoon Jeon, PhD. The research begins with a pilot study of virtual focus groups, interviews, and an anonymous survey of about 300 transit workers to be followed with a survey of 3,000 workers.

In addition to its other efforts, the team will develop a set of best practices and recommendations in collaboration with Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 officials and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The document is expected sometime in the fall.

New York City’s mass transit system is the largest and most complex in the country, with 7.6 million weekday riders on its subways and buses before the pandemic. After the onset of COVID-19, thousands of transit workers became infected and nearly 100 TWU Local 100 members have died. Transit employees are especially at risk for infection because the essential nature of their jobs prevents them from working from home, and they have frequent contact with huge numbers of the general public in confined spaces.