Robert T Babbitt PLLC

Issue 4, Article 1

May 23, 2020

COVID 19, HOW DO WE CONDUCT EVACUATIONS DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a dangerous hurricane season for 2020. For the fifth year in a row, higher than average hurricane activity is expected. Memories of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 remind us of how dangerous flooding can be. This year, the impacts of Covid 19 make several adjustments necessary.

The normal process of evacuations and emergency shelters must recognize the need to manage the risks of strangers placed in proximity to one another. Transit, in most evacuations, relies on transit vehicle maximum capacity. That may be challenging during the pandemic. It is always important to care for the elderly and immunocompromised in an evacuation. This year it may be difficult to find the medical treatment facilities that have sufficient capacity.

Some of the strategies are becoming clear. Remote connectivity for emergency operations center can solve several issues. Stockpiling of personal protective equipment for first responders can solve other issues.   It is likely that boarding of transit evacuation vehicles will include temperature screening and issuance of face masks. And most importantly, the combination of these issues may lead emergency planners to require longer lead times (10 hours or more sooner) for evacuation orders. This creates the challenge of convincing all in the path that they must leave, many before they are convinced of the path and severity. 

For details see: www.nhc.noaa.gov

Issue 4, Article 2

May 23, 2020

COVID 19, TEXAS REOPENS, SURGE RESPONSE IS CRITICAL

The Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd recognized the importance of responding to the outbreaks that will occur. “We know right now that nursing homes, meatpacking plants, jails and prisons are the top three areas where we see outbreaks occur…. What we are trying to do-and doing with success- is getting into those locations, testing everybody in the facility. Trying to get a very rapid turnaround on those tests, which isn’t always as fast as I want it to be, and making sure that we take people that are positive and keep them together, and people that are negative and keep them together.”

The surge team response is activated in 60 communities around Texas. Governor Abbott was confident in the results to date. “Every time we have pushed these surge teams into hot zones, they’ve met with very good results….what happens is over the first week you will see a massive increase in the amount of the people who test positive, and then after about two weeks, you see a decline in both tests and those testing positive and you see a containment of the problem.”

We know this approach has met success, it is vital to this next phase of reopening the economy.

For details see: www.kxan.com (Surge Response Teams Active in 60 Communities

Issue 4, Article 3

May 23, 2020

COVID 19, THREE VACCINES MAKE THE NEWS THIS WEEK

Oxford’s Jenner Institute-Astra Zeneca vaccine is advancing rapidly. This week they announced the United States government invested $1.2 billion (Operation Warp Speed) to produce 300 million doses. The company plans to produce 1 billion doses by 2021. These steps assume the initial efficacy is confirmed with the larger test phases. The next step is the expansion of the testing group. The tests to date have been with otherwise low risk volunteers. The inclusion of people over 70 and under 12 among the next 10,000 will shed light on critical survivability. Those over 70, in general, have lower immune responses. That complicates the probable response to any vaccine for this group. There is no doubt that this potential vaccine shows effectiveness in some cases. Next, we will find details that complete the picture. 

Moderna announced limited data regarding the safety of the vaccine in different doses and the creation of neutralizing antibodies. The results were positive, but the market reactions went up and down sharply. More details are scheduled for peer-reviewed release that will paint the picture more clearly. Moderna has partnered with Lonza Group AG to produce billions of doses if, and when, the vaccine passes these important tests.

Chinese firm CanSino Biologics announced preliminary results. “The trial demonstrates that a single dose produces virus-specific antibodies and T cells in 14 days, making it a potential candidate for further investigation.” These results should be viewed cautiously: the ability to trigger the response and the protection of humans from the virus are not identical but will be tested in the next phases. 

For details see: www.businessinsider.com

Issue 4, Article 4

May 23, 2020

COVID 19, WHAT WILL COLLEGE CAMPUS LOOK LIKE THIS FALL?

The sports talk shows are consumed with whether college football will return in the fall. This is important, but what about college itself. Will campus life return to a new normal? Many of our transit systems in urban areas carry thousands of customers per day in a normal year.

Texas A&M University, the University of Texas, Texas Tech University and Baylor are among the institutes of higher learning that have announced the plans to open in the fall. The Baylor announcement from President Livingstone included this clear statement: “Today I want to inform you that we intend to safely resume in-person teaching, learning and residential life for the fall 2020 semester.” The details include strategic plans that will be adapted to meet the latest government and public health guidance. To make each campus safe will take new dedication to testing and tracing. As the American College Health Association guidelines direct: “…return to an active on-campus environment will depend upon widespread testing, contact tracing and isolation/quarantine of ill and exposed individuals both on the campus and in the community.”

Each transit system that carries large student populations will evaluate the assumptions for a new normal. Will more buses be needed to allow social distancing? Will operator schedules be adjusted rapidly if the university decides to have a longer number of instruction hours per week, but a shorter number of weeks this fall semester? In many cases the strategic plans for colleges will be similar to that of the general population.

The need for clean vehicles will be extremely important no matter the route it serves. The need for operator barriers or contact protections will be critical as well. The requirement or encouragement of facial coverings may lead to clever marketing approaches.

Bikes are always common on large campuses, but it would be prudent to plan for even more bikes sharing the bus lanes this fall. Semester breaks may look different this fall or spring, our transit schedules may require adjustment. There may be several incentives for students to remain on-campus during the semester to limit the resurgence of the virus.  Several buildings on campus may be reconfigured for large classes or late classes or small classes.

For details see: www.insidehighered.com

Issue 4, Article 5

May 23, 2020

COVID 19, SANITIZERS MAY BE THE NEW STREET FURNITURE

What would you do if you were the mayor of a North Carolina tourist town in the face of this pandemic?

Perhaps your ideas would reflect your medical training as well. Mayor Joseph Hatem said that “…one of the interventions we can do as a city is to supply masks and we’re also placing hand sanitizer stations around the city.” A thirty-year veteran of J. Arthur Dosher Memorial Hospital, his emergency room experience brought him to a different perspective than many mayors. Why not install hand sanitizers as frequently as bike racks. In a tourist city trying to make the town “open” during a pandemic, the idea appealed to him and the council. The public works employees installed the units rapidly.

Most of our transit systems have implemented on-board spacing and recommended or required facial coverings. Some have installed bus operator clear partitions. Will the installation of hand sanitizer dispensers at bus shelters and/or on stanchions inside transit coaches become common?

Mayor Hatem received praise and criticism in Southport.

This can be a practical strategy, but three issues remain important. First, the common push button of some units may create an additional virus surface. Touchless dispensers can eliminate this problem. Second, the alcohol in the sanitizer can be flammable in unusual circumstances. OSHA regulations regarding flammable liquids must be considered. The placement of hand sanitizers is a key to prevention. Third, the alcohol in the sanitizer can lose effectiveness. The shelf life of unopened containers is usually three years. In actual use, the alcohol in the sanitizer can evaporate.

Some sanitizers are based on ethyl alcohol, some are isopropyl alcohol based and some are benzalkonium chloride. The alcohol-based types are normally more effective.

For medically reviewed details on this item see: www.singlecare.com

Issue 4, Article 6

May 23, 2020

COVID 19, FORT BEND, TEMPLE, CCRTA REOPEN SERVICE CAREFULLY

Fort Bend Transit announced the restoration of services. The operators will wear face coverings. Customers will be encouraged to use face coverings and will be offered a covering if needed. Customers will be using online ticket sales. The FBT team will clean and disinfect buses daily. The Texas Medical Center route was continued through the pandemic. The Greenway route and Galleria route were halted; but were opened again on May 18, 2020.

The HOP, serving Temple, Killeen, Belton and Harker Heights, is encouraging customers to wear facial coverings. The Front Lobby that was closed due to the corona virus pandemic was reopened on May 4, 2020. Customers are asked to respect blocked seats and the six-foot rule for social distancing. The extra efforts of cleaning and disinfecting include chemical treatment at least three times per vehicle per day.

Corpus Christi RTA announced partial weekday service increases effective May 18, 2020. Route 4 returned to regular weekday schedule. Route 12 returned to 30-minute frequency from noon to 8 pm. Route 28 returned to regular weekday schedule. Five routes remain closed at present. The remaining services on fixed routes will continue at present on the Covid 19 modified service. 

Weekly Update: Issue 4, Week of May 25-31, 2020: Hurricane Season Concern, Surge Response, Vaccines, College Campus Transit Plans, and more

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