New video: Metro is still in service for those who serve us. COVID-19 update, March 31

Metro videographers Joe Lemon and Adrian Hernandez spent some time last week on the streets trying to chronicle the extraordinary events of the past month and the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on our region. We also wanted to show our region — and the world — the heroic effort of Metro’s Operations Department, which has kept our buses and trains rolling for the many people who need to make essential trips. If you would like to share the video, here’s the link.

The latest numbers from L.A. County posted Monday:

Our messaging continues to be:

In the news…

•Taiwan officials announced that anyone who wants to take transit will have to have their temperature taken before entering the station and must be wearing a mask, reports the News Lens. Unbold prediction: that probably won’t be the last of these type of requirements in public places around the world.

As this Business Insider article explains, the Taiwanese government quickly put health protocols in place after the coronavirus appeared in December late last year. Thus, Taiwan has had just 322 confirmed cases thus far out of a population of about 23.6 million.

•The evolving public policy on masks, which the CDC may recommend, reports the NYT.

The issue is that masks do a better job preventing those infected with the coronavirus from spreading it than protecting those who don’t have it. There is also the fear of hoarding by the public that will make it even more difficult for frontline hospital and health-care professional to get masks they need.

•The LAT has an article headlined “Social distancing may have helped California slow the virus and avoid New York’s fate,” noting that California imposed stay-at-home restrictions a few days prior to New York.

Near the end of the article are these paragraphs which, to say it gently, do not exactly support the above headline:

Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of public health in San Francisco, said it’s still too early to tell whether the rise in COVID-19 cases is slowing down.

“I simply do not know if our aggressive actions early on … have had the intended effect,” he said. “I certainly am hoping and praying that that is the case. We still need the data to confirm that.”

Obviously, I hope the LAT is right that what we’re doing is working — and I hope it underscores the importance of staying at home if possible and social distancing.

As for the difference in COVID-19 cases across the nation, many experts are saying the difference between places such as L.A. and New York is likely attributable to the amount of testing. And we’re still behind.

•In 2012, the nature and science writer David Quammen published a book titled “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.” Here’s a 2012 podcast with Quammen from Scientific American.

The book was fortuitous. From the CDC:

COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoVSARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

The New Yorker also has an article explaining how the coronavirus went from bats to humans. Excerpt:

For thousands of years, a parasite with no name lived happily among horseshoe bats in southern China. The bats had evolved to the point that they did not notice; they went about their nightly flights unbothered. One day, the parasite—an ancestor of the coronavirussars-CoV-2—had an opportunity to expand its realm.

Perhaps it was a pangolin, the scaly anteater, an endangered species that is a victim of incessant wildlife trafficking and sold, often secretly, in live-animal markets throughout Southeast Asia and China. Or not. The genetic pathway remains unclear. But to survive in a new species, whatever it was, the virus had to mutate dramatically.

It might even have taken a segment of a different coronavirus strain that already inhabited its new host, and morphed into a hybrid—a better, stronger version of itself, a pathogenic Everyman capable of thriving in diverse species. More recently, the coronavirus found a new species: ours. Perhaps a weary traveller rubbed his eyes, or scratched his nose, or was anxiously, unconsciously, biting his fingernails. One tiny, invisible blob of virus. One human face. And here we are, battling a global pandemic.

I read “Spillover” shortly after it came out as I’m a big Quammen fan. I also remember putting it back on the shelf and thinking “hope I never have to think about this again.” One thing to add: viruses can travel from animals to humans on any continent.

•Tensions in Portland, Oregon, between bus operators and the local transit agency, reports the Oregonian.

•From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

 

As the NYT explains, this is an easing of emission standards for future vehicles from those approved by President Obama. President Trump is expected to argue the new rules are helpful to an economy wobbled by the COVID-19 crisis while many others argue this undoes one of the United States’ most effective ways of reducing greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

In the meantime, consumers do have a choice and there are many vehicles on the market that have good fuel economy. The EPA has a helpful online tool. And this: driving a little less and walking and biking a little bit more are things you can immediately do to help battle climate change.

•Some of you may have been planning on hopping on Metro to see Wilco’s shows in L.A. over the next week. That’s not gonna happen for now, but this morsel is a bit of consolation. Jeff Tweedy via his bathroom via Jimmy Kimmel’s living room:

7 replies

  1. You guys care? Really? Because for the first time I got on the bus today because I wanted to save some money. Since this started I have been taking lyft and uber to the hospital I work at. I got on the back and noticed the driver had no gloves and no mask. He was driving at 10 mph. When I asked him why he was going so slow he rudely replied I have a schedule to keep you DONT like it get off. I asked him why aren’t you wearing a mask and being so rude to a actual essential worker who has been having to put my life at risk every day. Again he said then get off next stop you don’t like it. I did and had to take yet another Lfyt home. Bravo to your very rude bus driver. When I got off he saw I was wearing scrubs and drove away.

    • Hi Marissa;

      I’m sorry you had a poor experience. Could you email me (hymons@metro.net) the details — bus route, time, location, direction you were headed in?

      Thanks much,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Steve, why aren’t buses reflecting real-time traffic speed and still going by pre-outbreak schedules? There is literally no reason why it still takes an hour for a bus to travel between Downtown and Westwood when there is no traffic in sight? That’s the point she and myself have been trying to make to you guys and it only continues to be ignored.

        It doesn’t help Metro’s message to stay home and travel for essential reasons only yet the agency continues to force operators to “keep” a schedule that not only does not reflect current real time traffic conditions but also further expose both operators and patrons to this virus and other pathogens because of “keeping” a schedule.

        Even though that was not an appropriate response for an operator, it’s also clear based on such a response, they are getting frustrated by having to stick to current unrealistic schedules. Fix it already!!! You guys finally have an opportunity to demonstrate that even during such a crisis Metro can be reliable and you guys are just letting it slip by.

        • Hi Dave;

          Redoing all the schedules at this point would be logistically difficult in addition to staffing issues and pushing out new schedules. I do think buses overall are moving more quickly but we need to balance speed versus being where we are supposed to be for the riders who most need us. Not ideal perhaps but these aren’t ideal times.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

  2. This will seem very trivial compared to everything else going on, but maybe people could use some good news… Did we get a breakthrough to Fairfax station this month? Will pictures eventually get posted, or was the crew scaled so far back that there were no cameras?

    • Hi Todd;

      Looks like it’s scheduled to happen later this month assuming everything stays on track. We’ll try to get pics but certainly the virus makes access to all sites more difficult — as it should be.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. Why is this posting full of political attacks, environmental speculation, a TV show promotion, and unproven science about the virus origins? I thought I was reading the National Enquirer. Focus on trains and buses issues.