Vice President Joe Biden might be afraid of the subways. But not Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who despite the swine flu, feels just as safe as ever.
“I took the subway here today as I do every day and I will continue to tomorrow as well,” Bloomberg said during a press conference this morning, diplomatically choosing not to express any outrage at Biden's irresponsible warning to avoid the subways amid the swine flu outbreak.
"This flu does not seem to be taking over the city, and so there's no evidence that being on the subway would, in a confined space increase dramatically the probability," Bloomberg said. "The bottom line is I feel perfectly safe on the subway."
Biden, himself a famed train commuter, unleashed one of his classic gaffes on the “Today” show this morning, inspiring fear and anger among thousands of New York City commuters.
"I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said when asked whether he would advise family members to use public transportation. "It's not that it's going to Mexico, it's you're in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me. I would not be, at this point … suggesting they ride the subway. "
Biden’s camp quickly clarified the controversial statement, saying the vice president had been cautioning people all along to avoid airplanes and other closed-in public spaces if they’re sick. Bloomberg choose to interpret the remarks the same way.
"I think what Joe Biden was saying [was that] if you have those symptoms you should stay home," Bloomberg said.
While the mayor acknowledged that the subway is a place where "people get together," he dismissed the idea that taking it would increase the likelihood that riders would get sick.
““I don’t see people coughing or sneezing on the subway .... taking the subway doesn’t seem to present any greater risks than doing anything else,” the mayor said.
There are currently 49 confirmed cases of swine flu in the City, and health officials said there are likely 16 more probable cases.
Among those is a probable case of swine flu in a 20-year-old Pace University student.
The student was hospitalized with influenza-like symptoms and is now recuperating at home. The student has not attended classes since being evaluated, health officials said.
The city also expects the CDC to soon confirm five probable cases of swine flu at PS 177 in Queens, and health officals are probing a possible swine flu cluster at PS 21 in Flushing where a number of students have become ill.
"This is a flu that we would expect to spread further throughout the country and throughout the city," Bloomberg said, noting that most of the New York cases have been mild and people are recovering quickly. “The bottom line here is that we continue to monitor every incident vigilantly as we have done since the beginning. No one planning to visit New York City should think twice about it.”
Five probable cases of swine flu were also confirmed in New Jersey this morning. Those affected are a 47-year-old man, 14-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl from the same Burlington County family who recently traveled together to Mexico. Also, a 43-year-old woman in Monmouth County, and a 22-year-old woman in Bergen County.
All cases are mild and none of the victims have been hospitalized, authorities said.
The U.S. caseload rose slightly to 109 as schools nationwide shut their doors today, the CDC said.
Five parochial schools closed their doors today after students came down with suspected cases of swine flu, said a spokesman for the Brooklyn diocese.
The Bishop Kearney school in Bensonhurst said it was closing for the rest of the week as a precautionary measure over fears that several students may have come into contact with people who have swine flu.
Meanwhile, results from the Ascension school on the Upper West Side came back negative for swine flu. Sick students there had garden-variety flu, the CDC found.
The escalating global health emergency claimed the first death in the United States -- a 23-month-old Texas toddler. Swine flu is suspected of killing more than 168 people in Mexico and sickening over 2,400 there.