Robert T Babbitt PLLC
COVID 19 WHAT COMES NEXT ?
Many of our Texas transit systems are returning much of the service that had been reduced in the spring. All of our systems have made corrective accommodations to the public health elements of the new transit realities. The cleaning protocols have been increased, the capacity of the vehicles has been reduced, and the fare systems have been temporarily changed.
As we return to larger ridership totals there are a variety of items that will require attention to detail.
If we are to take the six feet of social distancing seriously, that means that our effective capacity in most large vehicles is one-third or less than the complete capacity. The 35-foot low floor coach that is equipped with 31 seats is now limited to 10 seated customers. The 40-foot low-floor suburban that is equipped with 39 seats is now limited to 12 seated customers.
During the interim period of growing ridership and growing service frequencies, several leaders will assign Social Distancing Buses at central transit centers. These buses will help assure that no customer is left behind and that no operator or rider is forced into a cramped bus.
Not all transit systems have announced plans to add hand sanitizer dispensers on board the buses. Those that are planning to do this must also consider the extra in-bus movements of riders. The best design and signage will require/encourage to use the sanitizer but not to move too close to any other customer.
Many transit systems are requiring or encouraging contactless fare payments. Masabi, Visa, ApplePay, GooglePay and Token Transit are among the many providers that are moving rapidly to equip our systems for this change in protocols. But have we thought through what this means for our customers that do not use a bank or credit card? What about our customers that do not use a smart phone or similar connected device?
Some of our transit systems have moved to improve the HVAC systems on buses. The simplest improvement is more fresh air. The use of window hatches and standee vent windows is an effective step for most Texas systems when the weather does not prevent this use. HEPA filtration is possible on buses, but more practical in offices. Bipolar ionization technology is possible on buses and in offices. UVC treatments for overnight cleaning or contained within HVAC units in buses is possible.
The ionization process allows the tiny particles to be grabbed by larger particles that can be trapped in the filters.
And perhaps the most important issue is the live monitoring of customer loads while in route. Our systems with APCs are the most capable, but our operators can report most load issues by radio. We should be ready with relief vehicles as much as is practical. This is important for public health and for the convenience of our riders.
OSHA RULES AND COVID-19 REPORTING
Every transit manger understands the basics of OSHA incident reporting. These rules are designed to be certain that all safety issues are reported; and patterns can be detected. The many protocols have led to safer workplaces over the decades.
But with a pandemic in our country, are we to report an incident of our bus operator who became ill from the coronavirus? How do we determine if the workplace is where the illness started?
On 30 September 2020, OSHA answered some of the more common questions. Since the outset of this pandemic, OSHA has said employers are to report work related cases if the case otherwise meets the criteria in the regulation. That meant a positive case is to be reported if there is a hospitalization within 24 hours of a work-related incident. But what defines this incident?
OSHA has now clarified that the incident is to be reported if the hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work. If these facts are determined, the employer is to report the incident within 24 hours of the determination.
What if the employer knows the employee required hospitalization, but it is several days before the determination is reached that the exposure was work related? It is the point at which both the determination and the 24-hour hospitalization has taken place that triggers the reporting time limit (24 hours).
Keep in mind that many employees have been exposed at work and many have been exposed at other locations. The determinations are not always simple.
The OSHA rules are important, but the most important issues for our team members is to follow the public health guidance in our offices, our buses, our garages and parking lots at work; and our stations in the community at large.
For more details see: www.osha.gov
WHEN WILL OUR NORMAL RIDERSHIP RETURN?
It is difficult to predict how quickly the new normal may return. There are clear indications that economic activity, sports activity and school activities are cautiously increasing.
Air passengers remain wary but are gradually increasing. TSA enplanements reached a low of 96% fewer passengers on 14 April 2020 when 87,534 passed through TSA screening compared to 2,208,688 on the same day one year earlier. On 4 September 2020, the enplanements reached 968,673 or 56% below the same day one year earlier.
Transit ridership on buses was also 56% down in large cities and 50% down in medium size cities according to the June 2020 vs. June 2019 APTA Ridership reports; this after the April numbers were down 74% in large cities and 64% in medium cities.
On the other hand, 39 states had an increase in Covid-19 cases last week and 9 states set seven-day records for new cases. As the debate continues on the progress of fighting the virus, there will be a new phase when the antivirals, vaccines and monoclonal antibodies overtake our imperfect social distancing.
The greatest uncertainty is when will the large offices require the employees to return. And when they do how many will feel safe to return to transit. We do not control the “reopening of downtown”, but we will have an impact on customers feeling it is safe to return to transit.
For more details see: APTA Ridership Reports Quarter 2, American Public Transportation Association
WHAT CAN WE DO TO REMIND CUSTOMERS HOW SAFE TRANSIT IS?
The APTA and FTA health and safety information that most transit systems are using is a critical first step. The next thing we can do is make certain that our customers know the results of other nations. The latest data from France indicates that only 1.2% of the country’s covid-19 hotspots reported from May through September. The locations where 67% of the hotspots were found included health centers, schools, businesses and public event gatherings.
Low infection rates on transit in Hong Kong and Tokyo were included in the 7 October 2020 SkyNews interview with Dr. Julian Tang, professor of respiratory sciences at Leicester University. He said that since the pandemic hit our cities the transit systems have ramped up disinfection and related procedures. These steps have caused buses and trains to be among the safest indoor places in a city. He takes it a step farther saying that the pandemic would ease more quickly if crowded streets and pubs were as safe as transit.
After our customers return in large numbers, which features will be different than before the pandemic? There will be some transit systems that continue with free fares for months to come. There will be some that install hand sanitizer stations on the buses. There will be some that encourage two door boarding, including installing fare validators at the rear door. There will be several systems that require facial coverings for months beyond the date of the first vaccine announcements. It is likely that antimicrobial disinfection and cleaning procedures will remain for months to assure safety. And bus HVAC UVC strategies are expected to gain market share.
For more details see: www.sky.news.com 7 October 2020
PROGRESS ON VACCINES HAS BEEN REPORTED; BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PROGRESS IN MONOCLONAL ANTIBODIES?
The world watched the president take Marine One from the White House to Walter Reed Medical Center last week. The president received three important treatments while a patient at the hospital. The first was a monoclonal antibody cocktail made by Regeneron. The second was Remdesivir. The third was the steroid Dexamethasone.
Remdesivir is the nucleotide analog invented by Gilead. Over 50 countries have granted temporary use approvals during the pandemic. This medicine is effective for many Covid-19 patients, but not the majority. It was the first therapeutic that became available to treat the disease. It became available so early because it was already being tested as an effective and safe treatment for Ebola, SARS and MERS. Initial studies indicate that the drug accelerates recovery of hospitalized Covid-19 patients. This drug is an antiviral, not a vaccine. Antivirals do not destroy the pathogen but inhibit the growth rate of the pathogen.
The USFDA granted Emergency Use Authorization. This EUA can be revoked and it is temporary. This means that the drug has not been completely approved by the full FDA process yet. Several Stage 3 clinical trials are currently in process.
Dexamethasone is a low-dose steroid that has proven to reduce the risk of death for about a third of the patients who require ventilators. These are the sickest of the Covid-19 patients. The drug is already used to fight inflammation in arthritis and asthma. It is effective in treatment of Covid-19 at the point that occurs in some patients as their immune system goes into overdrive. This condition is called a cytokine storm.
The treatment that was not popularly discussed is the cocktail from Regeneron. In simple terms, monoclonal antibodies can be targeted or engineered to fight a specific substance. This “new” treatment may be the most important new development. Any safe vaccine is at least a few months away. The steroid Dexamethasone is effective for a portion of those who are most ill. Though it is still being tested, the monoclonal antibodies may become the therapeutic that has the benefit for the broadest audience.
For more details see: www.finance.yahoo.com, 8 October 2020