A couple of New York teenagers were just trying to make people laugh amidst a period of fear and paranoia. Their coronavirus subway prank not only outraged a number of passengers, but also the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
“We want to make light of the situation,” one of the teens told NBC New York.
On January 31st, Morris Cordewell, 19, posted a video on Instagram of himself and David Flores, 17, dressed in hazmat suits and facial masks holding a bucket of mysterious orange liquid while sitting on the subway. In spite of the numerous “WARNING” stickers plastered all over the box, Cordewell and Flores flashed reassuring thumbs-up signs at visibly concerned subway riders.
It didn’t take much longer for all hell to break loose.
In the video, shortly after flashing their thumbs-ups, one of the teens falls over, spilling the contents of the box across the train floor. Reactions from the riders are mixed. Some yelp, grab their belongings, and hastily scurry to the end of the train car. Others, who understood the joke, remain seated, unable to contain their smiles and laughter.
But there are some New York locals who didn’t find the prank funny.
MTA Chairman Pat Foye reprimanded the prank as “an irresponsible thing to do,” to NBC New York. “It ain’t funny. People shouldn’t be doing it.”
The teens told NBC New York the liquid in the container was a harmless concoction of Kool-Aid and soap.
According to The Hill, the MTA has referred the incident to the New York Police Department (NYPD).
Reactions online are just as mixed as those in real life. “Not funny,” several Instagram users commented. Others littered the post’s comment section with teary-eyed laughing emojis.
Pranking people in public spaces isn’t new for Cordewell. In fact, his Instagram—which has almost 7,000 followers—is filled with short, comedic videos similar to his coronavirus subway prank.
In another one of Morris’s videos—posted on January 14th—he sits at a shoddily put-together dinner table with a candle, a rose centerpiece, glasses of champagne, and a halved bagel. The location? Yes, the subway. Across from him sits a blow-up doll with a curly-haired wig. Onlookers take turns smiling, laughing, and recording the spectacle.
Both Cordewell and Flores told Insider they recognize the seriousness of the virus. But despite the online hate, they stand by their good intentions. “At the end of the day,” Flores told Insider, “it’s just a joke.”
This isn’t the only coronavirus subway prank that’s gone viral. In Russia, a blogger is facing five years in prison for scaring passengers after feigning a coronavirus-induced seizure.
There are currently no confirmed coronavirus cases in New York. But the virus has killed over 1,000 people worldwide, and the numbers keep growing.
Individuals risk contracting coronavirus not through liquid spillage, but through coming into close contact with those infected, or infected surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
To prevent infection, WebMD recommends washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Early symptoms of the coronavirus closely resemble those of the common cold, e.g. fever, cough and shortness of breath.