COVID-19 update; Friday, May 8

Photo by Adrian Hernandez/LA Metro.

As you likely know, Metro on Thursday revised its policy on face coverings for riders. Face coverings are now required after being strongly recommended for the past month. The enforcement piece will be a work-in-progress. Here’s the Source post with more info and here’s a brief article in the LAT.

Other transit agencies have similar requirements — in our region that includes the city of L.A.’s DASH buses, Big Blue Bus and Foothill Transit. Amtrak made a similar announcement on Thursday.

This has been an evolving issue across the United States. The early thinking was that face coverings/masks might encourage a false sense of security. From the L.A. County Department of Public Health:

The face covering was not previously recommended for the general public for protection from getting COVID-19. We are learning that individuals may be contagious and spread COVID-19 without their knowledge, even if they do not have symptoms. This new information suggests that a face cover may protect others from infection. Wearing a face cover may help prevent the spread of droplets that might be infectious.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its stance on face coverings in early April; days earlier the New York MTA had reversed course after thousands of its workers tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s important to stress that health officials say the main benefits of coverings is that they might help prevent those with the virus who don’t have symptoms from spreading it to others. Again, from the L.A. County Public Health Department:

There is limited evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions. If you plan to use a face covering it is important to keep your nose and mouth covered. Lowering the covering from your nose and mouth while talking defeats the purpose of wearing the face covering since you can spread virus while you talk.

The guess here is that face coverings on transit will be the new normal — at least until a time when the virus is no longer a threat and perhaps beyond. As I mentioned above, there will be work to do at Metro and elsewhere to figure out how to best accomplish persuading most riders to wear one (with obvious exceptions for those who can’t due to disabilities and/or other health reasons). An education campaign will be launched and I suspect — as with many other societal changes — in time this will become the new normal.

Metro, btw, is looking into how to help riders get face coverings who don’t have one — while also protecting the supply we have for our front-line employees.

From the L.A. County Department of Public Health: 

Dept. of Construction: Below are three drone pics taken of the work Thursday at the Wilshire/Rodeo Station for Section 2 of the Purple Line Extension project. With traffic reduced due to the pandemic, the city of Beverly Hills approved the full closure of Wilshire Boulevard to speed up the work.

Photos by Joe Lemon/LA Metro.

Musician and educator Fabio Santana de Souza of Viver Brasil, pictured below, will be playing live on Metro Art’s Instagram at 5 p.m. Sunday. Moms, kids and everyone else are encouraged to grab something drum-like and play along! Watch here:


In the news…

Interesting survey by Metrolink looks at who is riding (mostly essential workers and, among them, mostly healthcare workers) and what riders want if they return to riding.

•The city of Seattle is closing 20 miles of streets permanently to through traffic, reports the Seattle Times. Excerpt:

Residents, delivery drivers, garbage and recycling workers, and emergency response vehicles can continue to use the streets, but no through traffic is allowed.

“Our rapid response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 have been transformative in a number of places across the city,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said. “Some of the responses are going to be long lasting, and we need to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.”

•Traffic in the L.A. area is starting to creep back up, reports the LAT — but nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. Yet.

Excellent article at Citylab by Laura Bliss on transit in a post-pandemic world. Gist of it:

“For many years we have a lot of aspirations for transit: We want it to beat traffic, fight climate change, and revitalize communities,” he said. “But the two things it has demonstrably done in last half century is provide mobility for those without — whether that’s due to age, income, or disability — and allow highly agglomerated places function. My educated guess is that we will see the rise of transit as a social service.”


Jeffrey Tumlin, the executive director of the SFMTA, acknowledged that not all of the 100-plus [bus] routes lost to coronavirus are necessarily going to return. But he strikes an optimistic tone: He believes that a transit network that focuses more narrowly on frequent, more reliable service along fewer routes may serve the city better in the end. While the streets are still empty, the SFMTA hopes to rethink its approach to transportation writ large. Facing a sharp rise in vehicle traffic and fatalities, and seeking to slash carbon emissions, the city had already moved to ban private vehicles on its central downtown corridor, and has spent the past year studying congestion pricing.

A look by NYT at the new overnight NYC Subway closure that involved a big effort to connect homeless riders to social services as well as an increase in bus service.


Nice collection of our many frontline workers that have kept Metro Rail rolling day-after-day during the pandemic.


Dept. of Distraction: I was going for something summery and upbeat in my “Oh Geez” playlist.


11 replies

  1. Do I need to listen to my family tree members’ opinions to avoid riding the public transits until the symptoms of coronavirus is ended or can I just ride the public transits anyway? Because there are some of my family tree members don’t want me to ride the public transits during the symptoms of coronavirus, whoever are older than me, even if I am wearing a mask. They are saying that the drivers are also infected. My mom said that the employees of the white house are also infected, and she said that if I ride the public transit again, she won’t let me enter the house because she is afraid of the virus that I am going to bring home.

  2. If you are launching an education program how about first educating younger people to not sit in the senior seating!

  3. it’s a step in the right direction but, is there a plan for when buses are full? Will more buses be running to ensure physical distancing not just for the driver but passengers?

    • Hi Lampos;

      Yes, we’re planning for ramping up service when more people start returning to work — knowing we need to provide more capacity in order to accommodate social distancing. That said, the tension here is that we do not have limitless resources in terms of bus/rail equipment and staff so there will be a huge challenge ahead in putting the right service in the right places at the right times.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. How are you going to enforce this rule with the homeless and others who can’t seem to comprehend this rule? As a taxpayer, I’m tired of having to abide to a rule and others aren’t or don’t have to because it’s infringing on their rights. If that’s the case, I have rights too. Especially now that the trains and buses have been taken over by the homeless.

    • Hi Carlita;

      Our hope is to make wearing a face covering the new norm and we’re going to launch an education campaign to encourage everyone to wear them and look into handing them out. I agree it will be an uphill climb with some riders and this is one of many difficult facets of the homeless issue in our region. While not all riders are wearing face masks, we do see plenty who are and we think we can increase those numbers.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Well said, Carlita. Vagrants are given soooo much leeway regarding behaviour, not paying fare, etc. Mask should have been required at least a month ago. I have stopped riding MTA for these and other reasons, and will wait at least 3 months after all is over to ride again.