Swine Flu Worries Could Lead to Subway Closings

Officials weigh the impact of shutting subways, like Washington's Metro, if the flu outbreak worsens.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Now that the World Health Organization has raised its swine flu warning to the next-to-highest level, talk of shutting down city subways systems, like Washington's Metro, has begun among congressional staffers and federal officials involved in transportation. Sources tell Whispers that what started simply as speculative "buzz" yesterday has turned into serious discussions of the implications of shuttering major transportation systems until the crisis is over.

"We're talking about shutting down major transportation systems. Metro has come up," says a congressional source involved in federal transportation issues. He said, however, that there are no plans to call for subway, airline, or Amtrak closures. "It's just the early talk about how we can prevent this from spreading," said the source.

Still, talk about closing Metro has some on Capitol Hill asking whether Congress or possibly the whole federal government would have to close as a result. "The questions are like, 'How will people get to work' and 'Will they want to work around people with the flu?' The health experts are telling people to stay home if they have the flu, but we just don't do that here. We go to work if we feel good enough," said a Hill aide.