A new report is revealing how organizations around the world are reducing COVID-19 risks to employees and the public, while also highlighting practices that are aligned with prevailing U.S. public health guidance and areas of emerging research.
“Global Practices for Protecting Employee and Customer Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic” is a comprehensive 41-page report commissioned by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). John Gasparine, assistant vice president for the northeast transit and rail market at WSP USA and principal author of the report, collaborated with WSP’s Michael Marino and Dr. Aisha Rivera, who is an occupational and preventive medicine physician and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
The findings of the report will have wide-reaching influence on how public and private services can explore more progressive measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 during the health crisis.
“Areas of emerging research have illuminated how modern science is gaining a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus) and COVID-19 (the disease), and also how innovations to help control the spread of disease are on the cusp of becoming reality,” Gasparine said.
The first draft of the report was compiled in two weeks, and four weeks after research began it was published by MTA.
“Time was of the essence,” Gasparine said. “The MTA wants to leave no stone unturned with identifying additional practices that may help reduce the risk of COVID-19 to their employees and riders. Our team worked at break-neck speeds to get this done.”
A Myth Buster
The report provides a detailed look at actual practices and emerging technology that have been used by organizations to control the spread of COVID-19. It includes case studies related to screening and testing, physical distancing, indoor air quality, cleaning and disinfection, personal protective equipment, vulnerable populations, communication and pandemic management.
“This guide serves as a good basis for transit agencies to expand their resiliency toolkit against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other future public health emergencies,” Gasparine said. “The report is 100 percent applicable to other transit systems and helps dispel some myths about certain technology, while identifying credible sources for other processes and technology.”
With many transit employees in constant contact with the public, creating the safest environment possible has been a challenge, and critical to the health and continuing operation of public transportation.
“The world, our nation and our local communities are all suffering tremendous impacts from this pandemic,” Gasparine said. “Thousands of transit employees across the country have fallen ill, and many have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Across the whole industry, transit employees work tirelessly to ensure regional mobility, enabling healthcare professionals and other essential workers to fight the spread of disease in our communities.”
A Global Effort
With a long-standing relationship working with both MTA and the faculty at the Johns Hopkins, WSP was a good fit to conduct the research for this report.
“Having Dr. Rivera on our team as an independent contractor certainly gave us further credibility,” Gasparine said. “Also, WSP has over 500 offices globally, which gave us access to a network of colleagues in dozens of countries around the world, including the ability to source literature, direct interviews, and new media sources in foreign languages.”
This report may be completed, but work is far from done. WSP is continuing to work with MTA, assisting with research and providing advice on how public health guidance can progressively inform new practices to make the transit system more resilient. The team, which includes Marino and Rivera, is monitoring scientific advances in the fight against the disease daily.
“This tragedy is profound and underscores the courage of transit employees as they continue to support the recovery of our communities,” Gasparine said. “I’ve never worked harder or faster in my life to try and make a difference. I hope that our contributions to the industry have a positive impact on the health and equity outcomes in our communities.”
Click here to view the full report prepared for MTA.