Life

Is It Safe To Take Public Transit During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

Gloves can alleviate anxiety about touching straps and poles.

Whether you’re a worker on the COVID-19 frontlines who commutes every day (for which Canada literally applauds you for) or an infrequent traveller who braves the outdoors for your family’s weekly grocery run, public transit is unavoidable for many Canadians.

Pandemic etiquette suggests keeping time in public spaces and close contact with others to a minimum, which is an easy feat on many major routes. Cities across the country are seeing reduced ridership, which makes it easier to steer clear of other commuters.

But there are still times when popular routes result in cramped quarters.

So what can you do to reduce your coronavirus risk while commuting? Here’s what one occupational expert suggests changing in your travel routine:

Walk or bike some of the way

Anticipate a crowd on your ride? Kay Teschke, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, says it might be worth avoiding it entirely by walking or biking for busy parts of your commute.

“When I take public transit from my neighbourhood, it’s not crowded. [That changes] the closer I get downtown,” she told HuffPost Canada.

Getting off early to complete a trip is not only a great way to meet fitness goals, but Teschke says it might get you to your destination faster as many roads are clearer than usual.

Don’t worry about sitting versus standing

When it comes to avoiding potential virus transmission from surfaces, there’s not much difference between sitting down on seat or standing and holding a strap or pole, Teschke said. What actually makes a difference? The proximity one’s position is to another passenger.

Self-evaluating is also important: giving up seats to those with disabilities or pregnant Canadians is still good manners.

Wear gloves to alleviate anxiety

Should holding onto straps or pulling stop cords be a nerve-wracking experience, Teschke says gloves can act as a barrier between skin and surfaces.

“Wash them up or circulate them, use a different pair every day,” she advised. “It can also be a reminder to stop touching one’s face.”

Have faith in your local transit authority

There’s no need to pull a Naomi Campbell on your bus seat and wipe it down with disinfectant wipes before plopping down. Many transit authorities are doing their part to flatten the curve through increased sanitation efforts and making rides more isolation-friendly.

But try not to take unnecessary trips

Staying home for weeks means avoiding as much social interaction as possible. Taking several daily commutes that aren’t necessary conflicts with recommended protocol from Canada’s health authorities.

Watch: Canada’s top public health official says window to flatten the curve is narrow. Story continues below.

Thank your driver

Those at the wheel for several hours are at considerably more risk than commutes that last for half an hour. Teschke says it’s important to recognize drivers for providing an essential service, in spite of the times.

“There are lots of people we think of frontline in this situation. Transit drivers are one of them,” she said, adding that she commends agencies who have added face shields or introduced rear-door entry to limit their exposure.

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