Rock Region METRO was notified of its first known COVID-19 positive case for a METRO employee Monday, June 8. The employee, who has self-quarantined since Thursday, June 4 and will remain in quarantine through Thursday, June 18, is a METRO Links paratransit operator. The operator was in close contact with two other METRO employees, an operator and an administrative employee, who are also self-isolating and seeking a COVID-19 test, and 18 riders, who rode on two separate days the employee worked between May 31 and June 3 and who are being notified and advised to consider their level of risk of coronavirus exposure in this situation and follow CDC guidelines accordingly. The operator has been wearing a mask and gloves when interacting with passengers. The METRO vehicle the diagnosed employee operated has not been in use since June 4 and is undergoing a deep decontamination process that will be followed by a waiting period before the vehicle is placed in operation again. The vehicle the “close contact” METRO employee operated has also been removed from service to undergo the same decontamination and waiting process.
“Safety continues to be our No. 1 priority during this pandemic,” said Charles Frazier, METRO executive director. “The health of our employees, riders and community at large is paramount. Although we have been fortunate in evading a positive case of COVID-19 within our staff ranks for almost three full months since the pandemic announcement despite their front-line service to our community, we are not immune to its spread in our community. We remain focused and committed to decontamination efforts and following CDC guidelines and industry best practices to do our part in protecting public health while providing essential public transit service.”
METRO will continue to keep riders abreast of any COVID-19 cases among its staff members, providing as many specific details as possible while also protecting employee confidentiality rights, as required by law and as a best practice. In addition to the actions outlined above, METRO continues to take appropriate measures to protect the public’s health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, as summarized below:
It has been a standard practice to sanitize vehicles; offer on-board hand sanitizer stations to riders and hand sanitizer stations at the River Cities Travel Center (the downtown Little Rock local bus station); offer an on-site, full-time janitor at the travel center; and offer METRO drivers and other employees hand sanitizer stations and disposable gloves at each METRO property prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. These measures continue. In addition, METRO:
• Purchased special machines to fog sanitizer product into fleet vehicles nightly and has increased its fleet sanitation schedule, wiping down all high-touch surfaces daily.
• Increased sanitation procedures at each METRO property to reduce the risk of virus exposure for employees.
• Is screening employees with mandatory beginning-of-shift temperature checks.
• Provides and requires all employees to wear face masks in shared spaces, including transit vehicles.
• Limited passengers per bus and paratransit vehicle, is boarding buses at the back, suspended fare collection enforcement, closed its River Cities Travel Center Sales Office and suspended Lost and Found services to encourage social distancing.
• Placed new ion filtration systems on buses. These systems improve indoor air quality by reducing airborne contaminants; oxidizing volatile organic compounds; reducing airborne particulate matter; killing inactivated bacteria, mold and viruses; and enhancing the effectiveness of filtration media and evaporator coils.
• Requires passengers to wear a face covering that fully covers the nose and mouth while riding.
• Maintained public restrooms and introduced portable handwashing stations to riders at the River Cities Travel Center.
• Installed new UVC emitters to air handling equipment on METRO property. These devices inactivate microbial organisms (bacteria, viruses and molds) that can trigger a range of symptoms from watery eyes and headaches to severe allergy and asthma responses. The recirculating air in the HVAC system creates redundancy in exposing microorganisms to UVC, ensuring multiple passes so the light energy is effective against large quantities of airborne microorganisms.