If you’re worried about getting coronavirus from touching a bus railing, you’re not alone. King County Metro started a new bus cleaning program Wednesday that the agency says will greatly expand their ability to clean their fleet of 1,600 buses.
Starting today, crews will use a misting solution to spray down surfaces throughout the Metro’s buses every day they are used, according to Terry White, the deputy general manager for King County Metro.
“We are using a misting solution that we are spraying through the bus… especially hitting all of the key touch points on the bus, pull cords, hand rails, and on and off rails,” White said.
Nine people have died in King County—more deaths than the entire country of Japan has seen—and public health officials warn that the outbreak of the flu-like virus is likely to continue spreading. King County Executive Dow Constantine urged people to stay home if they are in an at-risk population, like the elderly or pregnant people.
The industrial cleaning solution is called Virex II and is commonly used in healthcare facilities. It takes about two minutes for crews to cover the entire bus with the spray, which is then allowed to dry before anyone boards.
White said Metro’s bus cleaning program should not replace people’s normal personal hygiene.
“We are still asking our customers to wash often. Try not to touch your mouth, nose, and ears,” White said.
The outbreak does not appear to be hitting Metro’s fleet of drivers yet, but Chrstina O’Claire, Metro’s director of the mobility division, said that the agency is preparing for possible future disruptions in service caused by the virus.
“It could be that we don’t have the right amount of drivers showing up,” O’Claire said. “We’re planning for it just so we are prepared.”
John Gallagher, a spokesperson for Sound Transit, which operates the Link Light Rail in Seattle, said the agency is implementing new cleaning measures in response to the virus.
"In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re taking aggressive steps to increase the cleaning at touch points on the light rail vehicles, including stanchions and handrails," Gallagher said in an e-mail.
Gallagher did not specify exactly what those cleaning measures are.