Is it Safe to Ride Metro? Tips for Taking Public Transit During the Coronavirus Outbreak

It’s more than carrying sanitizer, according to Metro

It’s easy to see the effects coronavirus is having on Los Angeles. With 17 people in the county diagnosed as of Tuesday, the streets are quieter as more people work from home or avoid non-essential errands. Crowds aboard the city’s trains and buses might also be lighter—there’s evidence transit ridership is dipping nationwide as the disease spreads—but hundreds of thousands of Angelenos are still riding Metro every day. If you’re one of them, there are ways to lessen your chances of catching COVID-19 while catching a ride alongside fellow Angelenos.

“The single best way to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus in any public place, including public transit, is to follow best hygiene practices, to sneeze or cough into a tissue or your arm and following best practices for frequent hand washing with soap and warm water,” Metro community manager Dave Sotero says.

Sotero also references tips from the L.A. County Department of Public Health, which recommends carrying hand sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol, especially after “touching commonly handled surfaces such as poles, turnstiles, straphangers, or handles.” They also suggest using your hip or the back of your hand when passing through turnstiles.

Additionally, if you encounter a visibly ill person on transit, try to “leave about six feet of space” between you and the effected person.

Using the buses or trains when it’s not as busy is also recommended by the health department, though that’s not feasible for all. Another tip long-utilized by transit pros is utilizing the crux of your elbow, instead of hands, to hold on to poles and to take advantage of TAP cards as much as possible on the bus, instead of handling dollars and coins, and touching the germ-ridden cashbox.

For its part, Metro formed a Contagious Virus Response Task Force that is coordinating with the county health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure an appropriate response to the coronavirus. In the immediate, the agency says it’s “strengthened cleaning at major transit hubs” and employees are cleaning buses and trains at least once a day, and adding signage to stations advising proper hygiene.

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