“Transit is much more anonymous and relatively fleeting,” said Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
In the months since the height of the outbreak in New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s subway and buses, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars on the daily disinfection of train cars, distributed over a million masks to riders, and started public service campaigns encouraging riders to maintain social distance.
These efforts are as much about swaying public perceptions and regaining the confidence of commuters as they are about safeguarding public health, officials said.
“There is both a substantive public health goal and there’s a messaging and assuring goal as well,” Patrick J. Foye, the M.T.A.’s chairman, said.
Dr. Joan Stroud, 61, a family medicine doctor at N.Y.U. Langone Brooklyn Heights Medical, started driving from her home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, to work in early May rather than taking the subway.
“New York City trains were already filthy,’’ she said. “I wasn’t going to get on one every day during a major wave of infection.”
But a month ago, she got back on the subway, which provides a faster commute, and has been impressed with the system.
“The trains are as clean as I’ve ever seen them,” she said.
Reporting was contributed by Théophile Larcher from Paris, Bella Huang from Hong Kong, Melissa Eddy from Berlin and Makiko Inoue from Tokyo.