Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.
Local transit authorities are taking extra steps to prevent any spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, to members of the public who ride buses or to transit employees as cases begin to appear in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
"Metro is taking multiple proactive steps to help prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus among our customers and employees," Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority vice president of external affairs Brandy Jones told WCPO in an email Tuesday. "In addition to the daily cleaning of our entire fleet, we will begin utilizing a chlorinated, sanitizing disinfectant on our buses."
Jones said cleaning staff will apply the special disinfectant to surfaces inside the buses and Cincinnati Metro facilities, including seats, hand railings and poles on the transit agency's vehicles.
The special disinfectant is effective for 48 hours after it is applied, Jones said, and said staff will apply the disinfectant at least twice per week to all Metro buses.
Metro has added a web page with information pertinent to COVID-19 and its impact on Metro service.
That web page indicates that health experts have not given SORTA a reason to believe any changes to bus service are necessary yet. "However, we stand ready to make changes if the situation changes," the page reads.
TANK - Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky
Across the Ohio River, Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky officials state on the agency's website:
TANK is closely following updates issued from the Northern Kentucky Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Staff is tracking the guidance of these agencies and are following the latest guidance/science that we have available to us from our local, state and federal health officials related to Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The website goes on to indicate that staff members are disinfecting drivers' areas and customer touch-points on TANK buses on a daily basis.
"This is in addition to personal precautions that we encourage all customers and employees to take to stay healthy. TANK is also finalizing a preparedness plan to efficiently respond to any changes in operation that may be necessary due to the virus (school closings, staffing levels, etc.)."
Butler County/Miami University
Butler County Regional Transit Authority executive director Matt Dutkevicz told WCPO by phone Tuesday afternoon that they "don't want to overreact," but they are developing a plan.
Because one of BCRTA's biggest service components is Miami University, the agency is preparing after health officials warned in late January that multiple students might have been exposed to the virus. Health officials later announced those students tested negative for the virus.
After that January news of possible exposure to the university students, BCRTA stocked up on extra spot-cleaning equipment and remains ready to respond if or when local cases begin to emerge, Dutkevicz said.
"We're not in panic mode yet," he said.
Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:
- Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
- See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.
- State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
- See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.
- SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.
What is coronavirus, COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.
The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.
What are the symptoms? How does it spread?
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.
The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.
Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.
The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.