Coronavirus has changed everything. As of this writing, the virus is blamed for more than 7,000 deaths in America. There have been more than a thousand cases in Arizona, though thankfully the death toll in our state has been low. "Social distancing," a term that few of us had heard of before a few months ago, has now become a regular part of the American vocabulary. Many people are heeding the advice of health professionals and keeping away from crowds as much as possible. Restaurants have closed. Sports events and concerts have been postponed. And let's not even talk about the toilet paper issue.
Coronavirus has certainly changed things here at Valley Metro as well. Many of our personnel are now telecommuting. Some facilities that had been open to the public, like our customer service windows at certain Phoenix public transit centers, are temporarily closed. Even so, our central tenets of connecting communities and enhancing lives remain unchanged. People rely on Valley Metro to get to work, to go shopping for supplies, to get to doctor appointments, and so on. We are a vital public service, and that service doesn't end because of coronavirus.
However, that doesn't mean we aren't taking steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19. We've enhanced our cleaning procedures on buses and light rail trains. I had the opportunity to see some of those procedures myself over the past few days. There's a new fogging system involving a disinfectant/anti-viral solution that stays on surfaces longer than traditional cleaning. That keeps our buses and trains cleaner and safer not only for the public, but for our staff as well. Many of you may have noticed that buses are now boarding passengers through the rear door rather than the front. That's to protect our bus drivers, who are heroes for continuing to provide their vital services in this challenging time. The same goes for our light rail operators, who now have a section next to their operating cab blocked off to protect them.
Yes, coronavirus has changed everything. Even so, what hasn't changed is our commitment to our community. We will continue to make adjustments as needed in response to the virus. In the meantime, rest assured that we will do our very best to get you safely to your destination.