New York City subway. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Most people have been avoiding public transit if they can, but a new report in The Atlantic says there's no evidence subways and buses are to blame for coronavirus outbreaks.

Why it matters: Public transportation is essential to the resumption of normal economic activity in our cities, but surveys show people would prefer to drive their own car than risk being cooped up on a subway or bus with strangers who might infect them with the virus.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling people it's better to avoid transit and ride alone to work, if possible.

It's all overblown, according to the article's authors, including Janette Sadik-Khan, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

  • Despite scary stories pegged to an MIT economist's report about New York's subway system, some of the biggest U.S. outbreaks have been in meat-packing plants and nursing homes, far away from public transit, they write.
  • Hard-hit cities like Milan, Tokyo or Seoul that have reopened their transit systems have not seen subsequent infection spikes.
  • Of note: In Asia, it's common for people to wear masks, which could help explain why Japan and Korea haven't seen new spikes.

Yes, but: There's still a lot we don't know about this virus, and it's too early to draw conclusions about how — and where — it spreads.

The bottom line: Until then, convincing Americans to get over their fears about public transit will be difficult.

Go deeper

Updated 23 hours ago - Health

The states where face coverings are mandatory

Data: Compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a statewide mask mandate on Tuesday for those in public, as well as for teachers and students going back to school.

The big picture: 34 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, have issued some form of mask mandate as infections surge across the country.

Updated Aug 4, 2020 - Health

NYC health commissioner resigns in protest of De Blasio's coronavirus response

Dr. Oxiris Barbot attends a Mayor bill de Blasio briefing on August 3. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York City health commissioner Oxiris Barbot resigned Tuesday, citing "deep disappointment" that Mayor Bill de Blasio did not use the full extent of available disease control expertise to handle the pandemic, the New York Times reports.

Context: De Blasio has faced criticism from health officials for handing control of the city's army of coronavirus contract tracers to the public hospital system, rather than the health department, according to the Times. The health department conducted contact tracing at the start of the outbreak and has decades of experience doing the same for diseases like tuberculosis, HIV and Ebola.

Updated 12 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios VisualsThe

The death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 700,000 early Wednesday, Johns Hopkins data shows.

By the numbers: More than 18.5 million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and over 11.1 million have recovered.