As public health officials keep our community informed on developments with novel coronavirus, Metro continues to provide bus service as scheduled recognizing that public transportation is an essential service. That includes Access paratransit service to riders who are not able to ride fixed-route bus service and who face a higher likelihood of being in a high-risk category. We have ramped up our response and also are addressing public questions about our cleaning practices on Access paratransit vehicles.
In the course of providing that service, in February we transported a rider who later passed away from COVID-19. Tracing back, Metro and our contractor MV Transportation were able to identify and contact the 10 people who might have come into contact with that rider. None has experienced symptoms and the drivers have since completed a quarantine window and have returned to work.
Under the guidance of Public Health – Seattle & King County, we contacted those 10 individuals who might have been in contact with the rider, and are now informing customers how we approached this situation.
Access customers: Novel coronavirus response FAQs
How frequently are Access vehicles being cleaned bearing in mind that they are transporting sick/immune compromised people daily?
Staff are increasing the frequency of cleaning vehicles to limit the spread of novel coronavirus. Crews are cleaning Access vehicles daily using hospital-grade disinfectant with a focus on high-touch areas like buttons, handholds, rails, etc.
This practice will continue for the foreseeable future as part of Access’ ongoing efforts to support the health and safety of passengers, employees, and community members.
We will evaluate vehicles after reports of concerns about cleanliness and sanitation, and remove any vehicle for thorough disinfecting if necessary.
Are Access vehicles equipped with bleach or sanitizing wipes so that vehicles can be cleaned on the go?
At this time, personal protective equipment, including sanitizing wipes, are not being provided to riders. Riders and caregivers are strongly encouraged to take personal responsibility for proper hygiene practices. MV Transportation, the contractor delivering Access service, has provided masks and sanitizer for operators and is working to provide them with gloves. Operators are also being provided additional breaks for handwashing.
Are drivers who had to service stops and riders at the impacted LifeCare Center in Kirkland, where the outbreak is happening, now interacting with Access passengers who may be vulnerable?
Access has identified drivers who may have been exposed to a person with a confirmed case of the coronavirus from LifeCare Center in Kirkland. Those drivers have put themselves into self-quarantine in accordance with guidance from Public Health – Seattle & King County. None of the drivers reported any symptoms to date; they have been cleared to return to work. For the health and safety of our riders and workforce, operators are encouraged to follow sick leave policies if they show symptoms of any sickness.
Have drivers/riders who have been potentially exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus been contacted?
At the news of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our state, our quick thinking staff immediately reached out to Public Health – Seattle & King County, to figure out if Access drivers or riders may have been exposed. At the guidance of public health officials, we determined who traveled with this rider and consulted with them about how to notify the 10 people affected.
We then contacted drivers who may have been exposed to the confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. These drivers put themselves into self-quarantine in accordance with guidance from Public Health– Seattle & King County. None of the drivers reported any symptoms to date; they have been cleared to return to work.
We have contacted the passengers who were potentially exposed to a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus and provided guidance from the Washington State Department of Health on the steps to take as a members of a high-risk group. Passengers are appreciative of the communication and none have reported any symptoms.
What is Metro and MV Transportation doing to ensure health and safety of customers and operators?
The health and safety of our employees and customers is our main priority. King County is following the protocols and directives of Public Health – Seattle & King County. King County Executive Dow Constantine recommended the following:
- We are asking everyone to take personal health preparedness steps. Especially in public and while riding transit, please do not touch your face to avoid picking up the virus, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and cover your coughs and sneezes. If you are experiencing symptoms of the virus but are in stable condition, please stay home.
- People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others. People at higher risk include:
- People 60 and older
- People with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
- People who have weakened immune systems
- People who are pregnant
- Please consider staying home if you are experiencing symptoms of the virus. Due to the small, enclosed environment of the vans, we encourage you to be extra discerning when you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms.
- We will allow all late cancellations without penalty and ask that you reach us as soon as possible. If you need to travel and have symptoms, please follow the CDC’s guidelines and wear a mask.
What should riders do to prevent getting or spreading illnesses while utilizing Access?
We encourage the public to follow the direction of the experts at Public Health – Seattle & King County, which recommends that everyone:
- Cover their sneezes and coughs
- Avoid touching their eyes/noses/mouths after being in public places during cold and flu season
- Wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds; use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if unable to wash hands
- Stay home if they are sick
- Clean/disinfect frequently touched objects/surfaces with regular household cleaning spray
- Be symptom free for 72 hours before returning to work
Why is my Access operator wearing a mask?
Public Health – Seattle & King County has recommended that healthy employees do not need to wear face masks. However, operators are permitted to wear masks that do not block their vision.
Have any operators been personally affected by COVID-19?
We are obligated by HIPAA privacy rule to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. Access has identified drivers who may have been exposed to a person with a confirmed case of the coronavirus from LifeCare Center in Kirkland. Those drivers have put themselves into self-quarantine in accordance with guidance from Public Health – Seattle & King County. None of the drivers has reported any symptoms to date.
- Facts and news about novel coronavirus / COVID-19 (Public Health – Seattle & King County)
- Common questions about novel coronavirus / COVID-19 (Public Health – Seattle & King County)
- Do you have a confirmed case or suspected case of COVID-19? Here’s what you should do. (Public Health – Seattle & King County)
- “My loved ones are at high risk for coronavirus. Time to make some plans.”
(Public Health Insider, March 5, 2020)
- Additional updates are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH)