The Wall Street Journal ran an article on Oct. 24 of last year showing that the estimated number of homeless people living on the streets of New York City was 80,000. Most will find shelter for an evening, perhaps in a car or in one of the city’s many homeless accommodations. But those that cannot have another option, use the NY subway system operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

“Five percent of the homeless that we reach out to every day, they are going to accept services, which is really pretty extraordinary,” MTA Director of Safety Patrick Warren said. “The problem is they go to a shelter, they stay there for a night or they stay there for two nights or maybe even three nights, but the next thing you know, they’re right back out in the subway system.”

Homeless people sleeping on subways cars are a normal sight for New Yorkers in normal times but now their very presence is a potential threat as the coronavirus sweeps through The Big Apple. Their unkempt appearance may encourage others to practice social distancing but the fact that they likely don’t have access to hand sanitizer or a place to clean with soap and water makes them at risk for contracting and then spreading the virus.

The reaction to the situation has taken on a virulent quality. Michael Fischer, the president of the Central Park South Civic Association, told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer on Tuesday, “It’s a capital D. It’s a disaster. The city knew about this for two months. They (city officials) knew that we had a terrible virus that was hitting the city, hitting the world, and they (city officials) didn’t do a thing about it. They (the homeless) probably have spread it a lot amongst themselves. You were on the subway. They (the homeless) have probably spread it amongst a lot of people who had ridden the subways.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson was a bit more specific about what Mayor Bill de Blasio should do.

“The city should be getting these hotels, putting homeless New Yorkers in these hotels, isolating them, making sure they’re practicing social distancing. We need people off the subways. The only people that should be on the subways right now are the essential workers,” Johnson said.

At least one hotel located in the financial district is allowing several dozen homeless people with coronavirus symptoms to stay there in isolation, according to NYC officials. The officials said they have 500 isolation units available for the homeless at four other facilities.

The Department of Homeless Services said its outreach teams have had nearly 9,000 contacts with street homeless individuals to see if they’re sick or need help. It is unknown how many of the homeless in NYC who have the ability or willingness to help themselves have taken it upon themselves to do so. Have they even been asked?