The New CDC Guideline That Many Officials Want You to Ignore
They agree on social distancing and face masks, but this new CDC recommendation may be a step too far.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released many guidelines over the course of the coronavirus pandemic to help keep the public safe. And with mounting studies upholding that wearing face masks, washing your hands, and social distancing seem to be the keys to slowing the spread of COVID-19, many local and national leaders believe the CDC's recommendations have helped to get mounting cases under control. But a recently released guideline has certain public officials pushing back against the CDC, CNBC reports. The public health agency recommends that employees returning to work drive solo instead of carpooling or taking public transportation, in order to avoid person-to-person transmission. Some officials believe that the increased congestion and emissions this would create for the environment outweigh the risks regarding coronavirus.
"Promoting private vehicle use as public health strategy is like prescribing sugar to reduce tooth decay," Lawrence Frank, PhD, urban planning and public health professor at the University of British Columbia, told CNBC. Many officials also worry that the increased flight of city dwellers to the outlying suburbs will only make this problem worse as the pandemic carries on.
Local officials have decried the CDC guideline as something that will only encourage gridlock traffic in crowded cities, even if the advice may be more effective in rural areas. Transportation experts also raised the concern that already overburdened dense cities will have a sudden surge of suburbanites commuting in on roads, bridges, and outdated infrastructure that simply cannot handle them.
"Encouraging people, especially those without cars and in congested areas like New York, not to take public transit is misguided," Patrick Foye, chairman of the MTA, said in a statement last week. "Transit is, and has long been, the safest way to move around any city, [and] our transit and bus system is cleaner and safer than it has been in history, as we clean and disinfect around the clock." (New York City has been using UV light technology to disinfect subways, as pictured below.)
Some experts have recommended the addition of more bike lanes to encourage anyone avoiding public transportation to pedal themselves into town. Some cities have even seen a spike in bike-sharing memberships since the beginning of the pandemic.
But with cars as the top contributor of greenhouse gases in the U.S., many fear that increased solo drivers on the roads will do incredible long-term damage to the climate with the increase in emissions. "If the virus decreases public transit use and increases single-passenger car trips, that change could be ingrained for years and would be devastating for climate action," Rob Jackson, a professor at Stanford University and chair of the Global Carbon Project, told CNBC. And considering the 11 percent decrease in emissions predicted for 2020, this comes as particularly bad news.
Many experts still hope that the newly established "work from home" culture will hold long after stay at home orders end. But with ridership of public transportation at an all-time low, there may be little hope for fewer drivers no matter what. And for more ways to stay safe while on the road, check out 7 Mistakes You're Making Every Time You Get in Your Car.