WASHINGTON — Serving hundreds of thousands of riders each day, public transit systems in the D.C. region are urging anyone with coronavirus symptoms to not take mass transportation to see a doctor.
Metro issued a pair of weekend bulletins stressing that the transit agency has ramped up its pandemic plan by ordering extra cleaning of some vehicles. The transit agency says it is also providing more hand sanitizer to frontline employees such as bus operators who may not have regular access to bathrooms while on the job.
The changes come after the first cases of coronavirus in the D.C. region were confirmed late last week by health officials in Montgomery County, Maryland. In a statement, WMATA said its latest moves "put Metro on a readiness footing to respond quickly in the event of an outbreak in our region."
Metro also said there will be extra daily cleanings of disability service vans, known as MetroAccess. The transit agency said it made the call after health officials in Maryland learned that a person with COVID-19 traveled to a facility in Rockville routinely serviced by MetroAccess.
However, Metro underscored there is no evidence anyone exposed to the virus traveled on one of its vans.
Other transit systems in the region say they are now on alert, as well. The DASH bus system in Alexandria said it is stepping up cleaning “with a special focus on critical touchpoints” on such handrails and door handles.
Public data shows the system serves about 13,000 riders daily.
But given the scope of public transit in our region, transportation officials stress that there’s no way they can keep riders fully insulated from the spread of disease.
They say the best way to protect yourself is to practice good hygiene and routinely wash your hands.
"It’s just not feasible for the Metro to be cleaning every five minutes,” Dr. Donald Milton, a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health said. "It is limited what Metro can do, so I think as riders we have to take some responsibility.”