Corp Comm Connects

York Region Transit ramps up cleaning of fleet over COVID-19 concerns

High-touch surfaces such as poles, seats, handles to get daily cleaning
March 12, 2020
Kim Champion

York Region Transit is the latest area public transportation agency to boost the cleaning of its buses, terminals, and stations to help prevent the spread of the new, emerging coronavirus known as COVID-19.

“York Region Transit has increased cleaning precautions on buses, terminals and stations,” York Region corporate communications director Patrick Casey said. “YRT buses, terminals and rapidway stations are cleaned and disinfected daily with a focus on high-touch surfaces such as poles, seats and handles. Buses also receive an additional cleaning every time they return to the garage throughout the day.”

York Region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji, said so far there is no evidence of community, or person-to-person spread in any of the region’s nine municipalities, including Newmarket, and the risk of contracting the disease remains low for residents.

To date, there are seven confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in York Region, including a Newmarket woman in her 70s. She is in self-isolation and is recovering at home.

Another local coronavirus patient is expected to be cleared of the disease in the coming days, and the remainder is recovering at home in self-isolation, according to the latest information from the region’s public health unit.

Nearly 400 York Region residents who have so far been tested for COVID-19 are confirmed negative.

Casey said that in addition to increasing the frequency of the cleaning and disinfection of YRT buses and facilities, the agency has distributed sanitizers and disinfectant wipes to all drivers and frontline staff.

“YRT will continue to closely monitor updates from York Region Public Health and will take further precautions as necessary,” he said.

Similar measures are being undertaken by the Toronto Transit Commission, spokesman Stuart Green said in a statement.

On March 6, a local commuter arriving at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre subway station on Hwy. 7 near Jane Street told NewmarketToday they observed a worker wiping down handrails with disinfectant.

Railings and other regular points of contact in TTC stations are getting daily wipe-downs rather than weekly, Green added, and a disinfectant wipedown has also been added to the daily bathroom-cleaning routine.

Meanwhile, after receiving information from York Region public health on March 7 that a Richmond Hill woman who was sick with coronavirus travelled into Richmond Hill Centre on a GO bus, Metrolinx announced that the bus had received a long-acting anti-microbial treatment and was being cleaned nightly.

“She (the woman) sat in accessibility seating, not near any others and had minimal contact with our driver who has been notified and spoken to public health,” a Metrolinx spokesperson said. “The bus was relatively empty for the trip and public health officials do not require passenger information as the risk is very low, they say.”

“Our driver is well.”

The Richmond Hill woman in her 30s is the region’s first positive COVID-19, confirmed by public health on Feb. 29. Her spouse, a man in his 40s, also tested positive for coronavirus and is the region’s second case. Both were returning home from visiting family in Iran. The couple is recovering in self-isolation at home, according to the latest information from public health.

In a March 6 blog post, Metrolinx senior advisor, media relations and issues Matt Llewellyn wrote that the agency also learned from Toronto Public Health that one more person who tested positive for the virus had travelled on a GO bus.

A man in his 40s who recently returned to Toronto from Las Vegas, and was subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19, took the route 27 GO bus between March 2 and March 4.

Llewellyn said Metrolinx identified the vehicles used on those days and, as a precaution, they are being taken out of service and given an extra cleaning.

Metrolinx has begun applying a long-acting, anti-microbial agent to the entire bus and train fleets, Llewellyn said, adding that to date, more than 150 buses have been treated, with an additional 40 more being completed each day.

All UP Express trains were also treated last week and crews continue to apply the microbial agent to dozens of GO train coaches each night, he said.

The agent is proven to be effective at killing bacteria, mould, yeast and some viruses, with further lab testing underway now, said Llewellyn.

The transit agency has also distributed gel-based hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes throughout its workplaces and GO stations, including buses. Stations and buses should all be fully installed with hand sanitizers in the coming weeks.

It has also recently purchased respirators and gloves for all frontline staff, but public health officials say the personal protective equipment is not required at this time.

York Region reminds residents who may be travelling to check health-related travel advisories issued by the Government of Canada and take the following precautions upon your return:

Travellers returning from Iran or Hubei province, in China:

For travellers returning from international travel from places other than Iran or Hubei province, China:

For more information, contact visit York Region public health's dedicated coronavirus page and Ontario's Health Ministry for up-to-date information on this evolving situation.

For medical advice, you may also contact Telehealth Ontario, a free confidential service that provides health advice, at 1-866-797-0000. A registered nurse will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.