SMART, Sonoma County bus systems step up cleaning to safeguard against coronavirus
As a regular rider on public transportation, Jesse Claasen is already in the habit of watching what he touches on local buses and the SMART train.
But since cases of the coronavirus started cropping up in Northern California, including Sonoma and Marin counties, he’s begun paying extra attention to his surroundings. He’s keeping his hands in his pockets, leaving his Clipper card in his wallet when he tags on and off and carrying hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of germs.
Cleanliness is crucial for the 36-year-old Santa Rosa resident because his job demands it. As a home health care provider for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities, Claasen needs to ensure he’s not bringing bacteria and viruses with him when he enters the residences of his clients.
“If I get somebody else sick, that’s on me,” Claasen said. “It’s definitely a concern. You’re definitely more aware of people coughing around you.”
And transit providers are doing things differently, too, ramping up their efforts to safeguard passengers from the infectious virus.
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit has added a second daily cleaning of its trains, and also plans to install on-board hand sanitizer dispensers by early next week.
Golden Gate Transit has added use of disinfectants to its daily bus wipe downs and a second weekly scrubbing of its ferry boats.
Santa Rosa CityBus has also begun doing a twice-daily cleanse of its regular and paratransit vehicles. If its workforce were affected or there was a wider outbreak that cut into ridership, the bus system would consider switching to reduced service like during the Tubbs and Kincade fires, said Rachel Ede, a deputy director for the city who oversees its transit division.
“We all know there’s a heightened concern in the community, and people can read that as an inevitability rather than possibility,” Ede said. “But it’s just good practice and out of abundance of caution to just be ready for those scenarios. If service were reduced, we would do it in a way that affects riders the least.”
As Americans this week began to reevaulate their use of air and cruise travel as fears about the disease grow, transit agencies across the state and nation are seeking to reassure users that they are taking precautions, including more frequent and rigorous cleaning of buses, trains and ferries. Some are outlining emergency procedures for infectious disease and the quarantine plans in place should they be needed.
BART said it would isolate and remove from service any train cars used by a person suspected or confirmed to have the coronavirus. In that case, car interiors would be scrubbed with hospital-grade cleaning solution, according to the agency. New York’s subway and Chicago’s rapid transit line are rolling out similar measures.
At Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, cleaning crews have added some extra cleaning steps in the terminal and expanded access to hand sanitizer for visitors and employees. International terminals across the nation have had to do much more, said Johannes Hoevertsz, the county’s director of transportation and public works. He cited changes in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, where airports have implemented additional screening of passengers.
“There’s not much more different than what we normally do,” Hoevertsz said. “There’s just more awareness, and more hand sanitizer.”
The coronavirus didn’t keep Sue and Maurice Richard, of the Fort Collins, Colorado, area from traveling through the county airport to visit their son in Windsor.
At the urging of their daughter, the couple chose to wait until Saturday for a return trip from Santa Rosa to Denver after a flight delay, bypassing an option to leave sooner out of San Francisco.
They’re also skipping their annual cruise, this year to Italy, which so far is one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus.
“We figure, we’re healthy,” said Sue Richard, 70. “You can’t plan everything around you. You just have to be safe.”
SMART passengers Friday welcomed word of the extra daily cleaning and other measures the rail agency is taking.
Librarian Serena Makofsky, 52, of Santa Rosa, was on her way to work at Marin County’s South Novato branch. She stood grasping a metal stanchion with her bare hand while reading a book in the other. She said she was only mildly wary of the germs prevalent in public places.
“It’s in my mind to not touch my face until I get to work and can wash my hands,” Makofsky said. “I’m not that worried. I’d say the things that I’m around in daily life are way filthier than the train.”
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @kfixler.