Metrolinx is prepared for COVID-19 and is taking proactive steps to keep everyone safe

Metrolinx continues to monitor the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, and is taking active steps to make sure vehicles are clean for customers.

Amid world-wide questions over COVID-19 – commonly known as ‘coronavirus’ – the safety and health of our staff and customers is central to everything we do at Metrolinx.

It’s why more than six weeks ago, during the very infancy of the global COVID-19 outbreak, Metrolinx proactively initiated a specialized team to plan, prepare and respond to this rapidly evolving situation. In any outbreak, it is important to be not only prepared but ahead of developments, as the situation evolves.

(Editor’s Note – April 20) – Metrolinx would like to make it clear that the AegisMicrobe Shield product that is being used on vehicles and stations is not meant to disinfect surfaces or kill viruses. The product provides a barrier that prevents the future growth of bacteria, mould and yeast. It is one of the many additional measures we have taken to help keep our staff and customers safe and healthy.

Metrolinx has learned a lot about managing a pandemic-type crisis since SARS and H1N1 – two past global viruses – and how important it is to communicate to staff and customers early, openly and frequently.

We’re also continually reviewing our current protocols and systems to ensure they address the changing situation. This past weekend those protocols changed again.

A cleaner used a rag to wipe down a handle bar. He's wearing a mask and gloves.

Wearing protective clothing due to the use of cleaning agents in a confined space, a crew member wipes down the inside of a GO bus in this March 2, 2020 image. (Keith Sheardown photo)

On Saturday, we heard from York Region Public Health that a woman boarded a GO bus on Feb. 26, who has since tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials also say her husband, who travelled with her, has subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Given we transport over 300,000 people every day, this was not unexpected. We are prepared.

Although public health officials continue to say the risk is low, even for those who boarded the route 40 bus at the airport on Feb 26 at 3:55pm to Richmond Hill Centre, Metrolinx took immediate action.

Out of an abundance of caution, the bus in question was taken out of service and thoroughly cleaned and we are providing the driver with the full support of our Metrolinx family.

Immediately upon being contacted by York Region Public Health, Metrolinx also began communicating through social media and to the news media to get the word out to customers who were on board the effected bus.

Internally, we have also been keeping staff informed of this evolving situation through regular updates from Martin Gallagher, Metrolinx chief safety officer and an internal information portal.

A cleaner polishes the rail of steps leadin to the second floor of a GO train.

Wearing garb to protect him from cleaning agents, a cleaner moves along the upper level of a GO bus. Metrolinx is in constant contact with health experts to ensure we are taking all the necessary steps to protect the travelling public. (Keith Sheardown photo)

As per the advice of Public Health Ontario, anyone who is concerned should reach out to their doctor or local public health unit for assessment and guidance.

While all of our vehicles are thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day, we are testing a long-acting anti-microbial agent. The initial results are encouraging and we are now beginning to incorporate its use into our standard operating/cleaning procedures.

Additionally at our stations and offices, hand sanitizers have been distributed.

The World Health Organization has published advice on the use of masks in the context of the COVID19 outbreak, and reports wearing medical masks when not indicated may “create a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures such as hand hygiene practices. Furthermore, using a mask incorrectly may hamper its effectiveness to reduce the risk of transmission.”

However, the Metrolinx response team is monitoring the situation very closely and if recommendations and risk level from public health authorities change we will ensure our teams communicate any change in direction immediately to our customers and staff.

As a public transit agency with thousands of employees who are in contact with millions of people, it is important that we encourage our staff and customers to be proactive about protecting themselves from any virus.

This includes following all directives of public health, such as washing your hands regularly, coughing and sneezing into your sleeve, staying home if you’re sick and consulting with your health care professional if you have concerns.

Metrolinx is in constant contact with health experts to ensure we are taking all the necessary steps to protect the travelling public. We promise to keep everyone informed along the way.

The safety and health of our staff and customers is central to everything we do.

Story by Matt Llewellyn, Metrolinx senior advisor, Media Relations and Issues.

(Editor’s Note – April 20) – updates and edits were made to this post to clarify information.