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DHS, Metropolitan Transportation Authority to Assess COVID-19 Spread in Public Vehicles

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The Department of Homeland Security and New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority have teamed up to explore how COVID-19 aerosol agents travel through public transit systems.

DHS said Tuesday its science and technology directorate freed an airborne coronavirus simulant into train cars and buses operated by MTA to examine how COVID-19 spreads through coughs and sneezes.

The team will incorporate airflow and dispersion models into a software tool to forecast the simulant's spread and determine where MTA can install sensor systems. DHS will also implement environmental data into the models to validate response efforts in the event of an airborne health hazard.

The partnership seeks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as well as other potential terrorist threats as part of DHS S&T's Urban Security Initiative.

"We are developing capabilities, tools and resources in New York City that other states, cities and localities can use to better prepare for, respond to and recover from the pandemic or other emergency," said Don Bansleben, a program manager at DHS S&T.

DHS plans to conduct a large-scale iteration of the study in various areas within New York to trace and observe the movement of a simulated coronavirus agent.