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San Diego bus riders discouraged, then encouraged to wear masks

Routes down 25 percent, riders down 75 percent

Bus passenger in Philadelphia arrested by police for not wearing mask
Bus passenger in Philadelphia arrested by police for not wearing mask

Every day, San Diego's bus and trolley drivers shuffle thousands of passengers around the county. As essential workers providing service to other essential workers, including those in healthcare, uncertainty clouds their daily routine.

Last week the Metropolitan Transit System announced that five bus drivers have contracted COVID-19. While vehicles are cleaned daily with bleach and other potent solutions, transit drivers didn't have to wear masks until April 3 when the county issued a new policy requiring essential workers to wear cloth face coverings.

For riders, it's only a recommendation. Neighboring Riverside Transit Agency has mandated cloth masks for riders and drivers. So has Los Angeles.

Because of the virus, worries about a shortage of masks for healthcare workers have led to conflicting advice. On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of coronavirus. Three days later, the World Health Organization issued guidance that says healthy people don't need to wear face masks to prevent the virus from spreading.

Only recently did the Metropolitan Transit System change its website guidance in line with the county's new policy. Before, they advised riders not to wear masks because they encourage face touching. Now cloth masks are recommended.

"It's definitely confusing a lot of people. You don't know who to believe," says Rosa Olascoaga, a community organizer with Mid-city Community Advocacy Network. Olascoaga wears a bandanna when she goes out, but says she isn't currently riding the bus due to COVID.

"I feel the driver implementation was a very smart move," she says. But she's not in favor of a policy that mandates riders wearing face masks because enforcement could harm low-income riders.

People have been confused by the differing advice and the problem is that "there is no standard." The group and its partner organizations have been advocating for rear door boarding and fare suspension.

The agency has implemented rear door boarding for everyone except seniors and the disabled and eliminated cash payments. But they haven't waived fares, she says. So far she hasn't heard of anyone being ticketed for not paying.

Among the essential workers the group represents are cleaners and those in the medical field. Some are unsure if they should buy the $72 monthly bus pass, not knowing what will happen to transit service as the outbreak goes on, she says.

Starting April 13 the agency reduced services by 25 percent, reflecting fallen ridership – down 75 percent since the statewide stay-at-home order. Still, drivers are out there on the frontline, making about 100,000 trips per day.

"I think they did a really good job keeping the routes in place."

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Bus passenger in Philadelphia arrested by police for not wearing mask
Bus passenger in Philadelphia arrested by police for not wearing mask

Every day, San Diego's bus and trolley drivers shuffle thousands of passengers around the county. As essential workers providing service to other essential workers, including those in healthcare, uncertainty clouds their daily routine.

Last week the Metropolitan Transit System announced that five bus drivers have contracted COVID-19. While vehicles are cleaned daily with bleach and other potent solutions, transit drivers didn't have to wear masks until April 3 when the county issued a new policy requiring essential workers to wear cloth face coverings.

For riders, it's only a recommendation. Neighboring Riverside Transit Agency has mandated cloth masks for riders and drivers. So has Los Angeles.

Because of the virus, worries about a shortage of masks for healthcare workers have led to conflicting advice. On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of coronavirus. Three days later, the World Health Organization issued guidance that says healthy people don't need to wear face masks to prevent the virus from spreading.

Only recently did the Metropolitan Transit System change its website guidance in line with the county's new policy. Before, they advised riders not to wear masks because they encourage face touching. Now cloth masks are recommended.

"It's definitely confusing a lot of people. You don't know who to believe," says Rosa Olascoaga, a community organizer with Mid-city Community Advocacy Network. Olascoaga wears a bandanna when she goes out, but says she isn't currently riding the bus due to COVID.

"I feel the driver implementation was a very smart move," she says. But she's not in favor of a policy that mandates riders wearing face masks because enforcement could harm low-income riders.

People have been confused by the differing advice and the problem is that "there is no standard." The group and its partner organizations have been advocating for rear door boarding and fare suspension.

The agency has implemented rear door boarding for everyone except seniors and the disabled and eliminated cash payments. But they haven't waived fares, she says. So far she hasn't heard of anyone being ticketed for not paying.

Among the essential workers the group represents are cleaners and those in the medical field. Some are unsure if they should buy the $72 monthly bus pass, not knowing what will happen to transit service as the outbreak goes on, she says.

Starting April 13 the agency reduced services by 25 percent, reflecting fallen ridership – down 75 percent since the statewide stay-at-home order. Still, drivers are out there on the frontline, making about 100,000 trips per day.

"I think they did a really good job keeping the routes in place."

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Comments
8

Imagine what could be accomplished and/or accessed -- during the rear-door boarding, while that 90degree view blocking [to the 1 side of the rear door], in a short distance of that rear door, is in effect. As the passenger boards. If there is possibly anything being carried along, before walking onto the bus. (and/or) Before unloading it from clothing and/or what it may be carried in. We know there be cameras in the buses, but that be more concentrated to looking towards the front door & the driver. And down the aisle -- toward the rear of the bus. NOT to the side of the bus, to where the rear door be; OR IS THIS THE TROLLEYCAR ONLY? THe buses are more liberal in security than the trolleycars.

April 14, 2020

This CoVid-19 issue, in this topic of masks, is another political issue of endorsements --- to make the manufacturers wealthy. And literally (help to) fulfill the landfill.

April 14, 2020

The experts are confusing the general public, to the point where we don't know what to believe. Be a mature adult and use you best judgment.

April 14, 2020

Most of the citizens who know how the county & city government functions --- know about the reduction in the MTS security. As I rode the trolley today, the was an issue within the trolleycar I was riding. Later, as I was at the trolley station, as I saw SDPD car driving at a pace in which it was not concentrated in response to a call nor a pursuit. He heard my call for attention, but gave the hand to gesture defining as a refusal in wanting to listen (hence stop). I don't know what gradation of perception, of a citizens call for attention, from a public transit trolley station defines to police for public protection -- in a county that barely uses public transit at all (except the poor/disabled). But add that many don't ask for assistance from police, as many, BUT NOT ALL, who use public transit have criminal records, or records of some type of negativity. But San Diego County is a VERY pre-judgmental society.

April 14, 2020

Save for a medical facility I can't think of a place where you are more likely to get the Coronavirus than on mass transit. I know that they disinfect and clean often but after a few stops that all goes by the wayside. Not everyone who uses mass transit is well informed or using best practices.

April 15, 2020

In reply to Alex Clarke: This is not the first time I read your reply; I just lost grasp to say on my first time I read: If you are are possibly saying that the SDPD unit did not want to stop for me -- as he/officer indicated me as a passenger to public transit, and was in concern to --- what your output speaks of. That he was in concern of his health [his facial gesture was interesting to along with such a result], in why he chose not to stop to listen to me. It not take much intelligence, to stop at a distance away. We as citizens know how times come in assistance from them, then that "proof" is needed -- to go further, ~~~~~~~~~~ I note how strange a coinc it be that the media has spoken about 'controversy' being to what I said about "landfill." As I never heard a "controversy" raised about this topic before I brought it up; which is why I brought it up --- the media being extremely overdue in such a concern. Another odd coincidence or they must have read of my comment.

April 16, 2020

It's interesting to compare of the functioning of MTS in this controversy, vs Food4Less -- whose policy/s varied by the districts of the stores. Those F4L stores within the City Limits of San Diego, vs the Lemon Grove location -- which be outside the City Limits of San Diego, but within the County of San Diego. There is contrast in the policies in what define an accepted customer, As the (claimed to be visible) signage to this is very concealed. Great effort needed, so to find its existence. This makes as an interchangeable debate issue to combine with the correct MTS issue, when it comes up. Coinc -- the Euclid ave store of F4L is next to the MTS trolley station!

April 16, 2020

MTS TROLLEYS have the possibility of being extremely AGAINST (any)ONE'S HEALTH: Today, I was attempting to exit a trolleycar that had only 3 or 2 other passengers inside. As 1 of the passengers exited before me; and I gave the legit spacing in-between us -- who were exiting. BUT as I had the space given to the passenger exiting before me, there was a female passenger outside -- who was originally not looking happy, as she had to waiting for those to have exit first. She knew they having the right-of-way -- she did not want to wait further on MY exiting. As she had to wait for the person before me. So what she did, as I barely walked ahead within stairway of the trolleycar: she chose to tackle -- by BLOCKING ME. My blocked access to exit --- as I was attempting to exit in the spacing she gave> between the side of her body & edge of trolley-door. But as there was no enuff space, and I could not access out of trolley, she only intended t o further block me in. As this be the full intent. When the trolley did its slow take-off: as the widow was partially open, of the trolley-operator, I said "You got trouble in there." (she was looking as if wanting to cause that trouble; as I saw here sitting in the seat -- her face was in a more bothered expression, vs the time of dispute)

She had no mask, (presently such attitude that anyone would perceive as) nor was she intelligent to do such; nor would she have cared. One from the Southeast of U.S.

April 18, 2020

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