Robert T Babbitt PLLC

Issue 13, Article 1

August 20, 2020

Seoul, South Korea unveiled 10 bus transit passenger shelters. The features include solar power, ultraviolet sanitizers and thermal imaging cameras that check customer temperatures. More shelters of this type are planned.

Delhi, India requires that customers show they are symptom free with a mobile health app before boarding. This has allowed the system to prevent most cases of infected riders accessing the subway.

Singapore MRT customers have access to touch-free kiosks with thermal scanners. A green light indicates the user is free from fever; an orange light indicates a fever has been identified. The kiosks are at busy rail and bus loading stations. There are 70 kiosks being implemented at present. The temperature screening is not mandatory, but is highly encouraged

Dallas announced plans last week to place hand sanitizer dispensers and facial coverings dispensers on buses and trains. Starting on July 3, 2020 DART customers were required to wear facial coverings while riding. In addition, DART removes any transit vehicle that has a positive case confirmed on board.

As more commuters regain the confidence to ride and as schools gradually reopen, everyone wants to be 100% certain that no surface and no person in near proximity harbors the virus. But we must remember the virus has no legs; it has no wings. The primary transmission has been proven to be coughs, sneezes, loud voices and large crowds.

How do we stay calm and carry on? We can remind all operators and customers and support personnel that this virus has weaknesses. Becoming infected requires that a minimum infectious dose is moved from one person to another. Scientists have not yet proven the specific amount of SARS-CoV-2 it takes to infect most people. The best estimate to date is that a small amount (like measles) will not cause an infection. Therefore, brief exposures are better than long ones, small passenger loads are better than large ones, frequent hand washing/sanitizing, facial coverings and low voices are better, and fresh air is better than recirculated untreated air.

Together we can serve essential workers, returning commuters and our local economy and schools. The virus is dangerous due to those transmissions that occur without either party knowing it. But we are capable of destroying its viral pathways.

For more details: www.wfaa.com, Aug 12; www.statnews.com, www.japantoday.com Aug 17, 2020

Issue 13, Article 2

COVID 19,   WILL CONGRESS AND WHITE HOUSE COME TO AGREEMENT?

While Congress and the White House argue, the next relief bill is stalled. The additional funds in the House bill for transit would have been vital to some of the nation’s largest systems. New York indicates it will not be able to serve normal operations next year, even with service trims and fare increases.

Nearly one-third of public transit systems are planning furloughs or have enacted them, according to the American Public Transportation Association; another third of the systems are delaying capital projects. San Francisco reduced half of the routes. Chicago is budgeting a $1.5 billion shortfall, at the moment, for next year’s operation.

Operator shortages due to quarantine, added disinfecting and cleaning complicate an already challenging set of issues. This is not the easiest of times to manage a transit system.

The odds of a next relief bill of some type are good. The odds of the bill including the $15 billion of second round funding for transit from the May House bill or the July 110 House member proposal for $32 billion are in question since the Senate bill has $0 for transit.

What is clear is that the rider revenue for virtually every US transit system will be lower in 2020 than 2019, and perhaps lower in 2021 than in 2020. The same can be said of transit aid, whether directly or indirectly, from local option sales taxes or payroll taxes.

Since the first relief bill funded $25 billion for transit and it was distributed by existing formulas, the extent to which FTA formula funds supported a transit system in a normal year is the extent to which that transit system is assured of a calm 2021 budget scenario.  In a system the size of New York, FTA formula funds are a small part of the overall budget, so the relief was welcome but small in relation to the problem.

But riders are returning, and we can make or break that return. It has always been vital to our industry to offer safe, reliable, customer friendly, impeccably clean services. Those duties are more important now than ever.

We will also have to adapt more quickly to demands created by operator shortages if hotspots occur. Paris and Seoul researchers have proven that no hotspots were found in transit operations. The MLB and NBA have proven that the isolation of “player bubbles” works. Transit cannot create the controlled bubbles, but we can be alert to the same risks.

For more details: www.nytimes.com, August 15, 2020

Issue 13, Article 3

COVID 19,    TESTING HAS BEGUN FOR FAR UVC SAFETY

Ultraviolet radiation comes in several types. UVA and UVB have no discernable impact on disinfecting. UVC has been used successfully for many types of disinfecting. Ionization is the process that causes chemical bonds to degrade. It has been proven effective against viruses similar to the Covid virus. The challenge is it is harmful to human tissues, in general. It has been proven useful in unmanned cleaning processes.

UVC includes wavelengths between 200 and 280 nanometers.

At the low end of this range, 222 nanometer UVC is referred to as FAR UVC. There have been multiple explanations of theoretical use of FAR  UVC in the battle with Covid-19. Now the test results are being published.

Buonanno, Welch, Shuryak and Brenner published the findings of test results in June 2020. The findings are clear and promising. Germicidal ultraviolet light at 254 nm is effective against the virus. It inactivates the virus but is hazardous to skin and eye tissue. FAR UVC, between 207 and 222 nm kills pathogens but does not harm humans.

This study proved that with several corona viruses, the smaller wavelengths are effective against the virus: it penetrates and kills or makes them no longer viable. These small wavelengths do not penetrate human skin layers, therefore potential skin cancer and related problems are found to be harmless. This allows use while humans are present in a room, a train or a bus.

In a similar effort in a joint study by Kobe University-Ushio Incorporated, the FAR UVC was directly exposed to the skin of volunteers. Instead of “being in the room” the test subjects had their backs irradiated with 500 megajoules/square centimeter of 222 nanometer UVC light.

The bacteria count decreased by almost 90%, there was no erythema or redness of the skin at 24 hours

after the procedure, nor at 90 days after the procedure. This research study clarified that the use of this procedure should be limited to Filtered FAR UVC lamps. Unfiltered UVC lamps can emit radiation in the 230nm to 320nm range which is dangerous to the skin tissues. Irradiation at this higher level has been found to damage cellular DNA.

It remains to be proven conclusively that FAR UVC inactivates the specific virus that causes Covid-19. It was important to prove the technique was safe for humans on less dangerous viral specimens that have nearly identical composition. The promise of FAR UVC as a secondary measure in hotels, meeting rooms, transit and air travel is a light in the tunnel back to normal.

For more details see:     www.nature.com, June 24, 2020;

www.edisonreport.com, August 14, 2020

Issue 13, Article 4

COVID 19,    HOW MANY POSITIVE CASES ARE REALLY OUT THERE?

Whether you are a school principal or a transit manager, it would be useful to know the actual percent of positive cases in the city or county where you serve.

The debate about how difficult tests are to arrange limited the first tests to first responders and persons with symptoms. Now that testing has expanded in most cities, debates have ensued: are the large increases in cases due solely to the increase in testing.

The answer is no. Expanded testing does, of course, lead to more positive cases being recorded. But that misses the more salient point. We need to know how many cases exist AND if persons are testing positive.

These require two different types of tests. A random seroprevalence test conducted in many different parts of the country is different from the testing you have seen on most media reports.

The common form of testing takes a sample from your nasal cavity (or the latest type uses saliva). The laboratory diagnostic tests for the presence of molecules of the virus genetic material (molecular) or the presence of specific proteins on the surface of the virus (antigen).   

The seroprevalence testing determines if the antibodies are present. The CDC has been testing around the country to find the percent of the general population that has had the virus and infection that follows. In round one of these tests they found that 4.9% of the 176,000 were exposed to the infection. In round two, 5.2% of the 185,000 tested were confirmed cases. In round three, 6.3% of the 223,000 were proven to have been infected.

From this data, one can assume that 6% or more of the population in most cities has had the virus. This is probably a larger number than those who would answer yes to a survey question of the infection. This number, of course, will continue to grow as the virus circulates.

“People can be contagious without symptoms. And in fact – …people tend to be the most contagious before they develop symptoms….” Sanjay Gupta MD.

This may be due to the location of the growing virus particles. People often have more virus particles in the nose and mouth at that point. It has been shown that the spread by speaking, sneezing and coughing are the most common transmission methods.

If you are screening employee team members for wellness, the combination of the touchless temperature check and the finger pulse oximeter are useful techniques. The problem with this virus is that transmission MAY take place before either of these measures are beyond normal AND before any symptoms are felt. That is why distancing and facial coverings are needed as well.

For more details:            www.cdc.gov, August 14, 2020

Issue 13, Article 5

COVID 19,   WHAT DO WE HAVE TO ELIMINATE FROM OUR TRANSIT SERVICE TO BE SAFE?

The simplest step we can take on buses is the introduction of fresh air. Our modern buses use recirculated air for the greater volume of treated air in the HVAC system. But when weather cooperates, the simplest step is to open the windows or roof vents or standee vents.

The next step is to require facial coverings for all employees and all customers. This may prove difficult in some cities due to polarized reactions among the community. But the chance of transmission by those who do not know they have the virus makes facial coverings a vital defense strategy.

Another step may be practical but should be approached carefully. Encourage “quiet car” techniques on buses. Most large city commuter rail systems have one quiet car per train. This is used to accommodate those who do not want to listen to others cell phone calls or those who want to nap. But the results from Paris and Seoul, South Korea indicate that facial coverings and quiet trains have avoided any hotspots from breaking out.

Of course, we should use the most careful protocols for cleaning frequently touched surfaces.

As our systems return to normal service and fare policies, we can emphasize the low-contact or no- contact forms of fare payment. At the simple end of the continuum we can emphasize flash pass use and mail-in ordering of ordering through the employer. At the more technological end of the continuum we could follow San Francisco’s Muni. They are encouraging all customers to ride and pay fares in cashless methods. The MuniMobile app can be downloaded and pay for tickets and passes with a credit or debit card. The process can also access the customers Google Pay, Apple Pay or PayPal account. Once purchased, the ticket or pass is valuable but does not run the risk of expiration since the customer must activate it before boarding.

An unused ticket that has not been activated is valuable for 180 days. San Francisco, like many large systems provides trip planning integration, one trip tickets, all-day passes, and passes for several combinations of days. The feature allowing families to make multiple purchases with one device is convenient for tourists from near and far.

The most sensitive steps we can take are the diligent protection of our team by immediate action steps when a known case is presented. It is vital to treat the employee with respect and care, and it is also critical to keep that employee from infecting family and others while they convalesce.

These are difficult challenges but nothing like those faced in World War I or World War II. This is a battle that is serious but easily won.

For more details see: www.thesfnews.com, August 15, 2020

Weekly Updates: Issue 13, Article 1, Week of August 20-27, 2020: COVID 19, HOW CAN WE COVID-PROOF OUR TRANSIT SYSTEM?

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