Metro held a COVID-19 briefing for its Board of Directors, announcing that it is preparing for alternate or reduced service options in the face of the ongoing outbreak.
During Thursday’s meeting, the agency’s Chief Safety Officer Theresa Impastato explained the four phases of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) pandemic plan.
As part of their cleaning protocols, Metro staff are currently disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in stations, including fare machines, fare gates and handrails, every day. Vehicles are also cleaned and disinfected. The agency started using electrostatic fogging equipment on bus and rail cars on a weekly basis.
With the upcoming phase 3, WMATA will consider alterations to service in the event of increased employee absences or illnesses, review its internal procedures to identify any crucial gaps, as well as evaluating potential options for reduce or alternate service and preparing response scenarios.
The first phase of the plan included assessing the current stock level of critical supplies and increasing them by 25 percent, issuing messages about employee habits to prevent outbreak, coordinating with local, regional and federal authorities, tracking absenteeism and ridership. Cleaning and disinfection were increased during this phase.
WMATA started phase 2 in March, when there were confirmed cases in the Washington, D.C. area. It consists of daily cleaning and disinfection practices, enhanced communications, continued coordination local, state and federal authorities, and the initiation of exercises and drills to confirm preparedness procedures are adequate to meet a number of potential outcomes. All phase 1 activities are continued in the meantime.
If Metro moves on to the third phase of the plan, it will open the Emergency Operations Center, while continuing all of the phase 2 activities. It will implement the plans for various scenarios, modify service as needed and support the regional response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The fourth and final phase of the plan is about “recovery focused on restoration of services and critical self assessment and lessons learned to inform future planning efforts,” according to Impastato.
The pandemic plan is being implemented by Metro’s task force, which was activated in response to the reports of coronavirus on January 29. Members of the task force have met weekly since its activation.
The task force is “an interdisciplinary team comprised of key stakeholders from safety operations, occupational health and wellness, emergency management, Metro Transit Police Department, procurement, media and employee relations and customer service,” according to the Chief Safety Officer.