ALEXANDRIA, VA — DASH Bus passengers will be required to wear face coverings while riding starting on Monday, May 18 as a precaution against the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 illness.
The Alexandria Transit Company said the policy is based on guidance from the Alexandria Health Department. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended face coverings in public places where physical distancing is hard to maintain.
"The measure will help protect DASH employees and passengers from contracting the COVID-19 virus and is consistent with the actions of the agency’s regional transit partners, including WMATA, Frederick Transit, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County Transit. This precaution will remain in effect until further notice," Alexandria Transit Company said in a statement.
Individuals who do not have a face covering will be asked to return home to obtain one. Passengers who are unable to wear masks or do not have means to obtain one will be asked to be as far from other riders as possible.
DASH continues to provide essential trips with reduced service. In anticipation of Gov. Ralph Northam's phase one reopening for Alexandria starting as soon as May 29, DASH is making service changes as of Sunday, May 24. DASH will increase service from enhanced Sunday to enhanced Saturday service. King Street Trolley service remains suspended until further notice.
The transit company previously announced two cases involving staff. A bus driver who tested positive on April 13 had worked a backup bus for regular routes but did not assist any routes. On May 5, a cleaning contractor who cleans the DASH offices informed the transit company of a positive coronavirus test result. The person was last at the DASH facility on April 29 and was not suspected to have contact with DASH employees or passengers.
Other safety measures implemented by DASH include suspension of bus fares until further notice, switching to boarding from the rear door, creating barriers between passenger seating and drivers, blocking seats too close together to maintain physical distance, and providing drivers with personal protective equipment. Riders with disabilities or strollers can board through the front doors if a ramp is needed.
Latest Alexandria numbers
As of May 15, Alexandria has 1,396 coronavirus cases and 32 deaths. The Virginia Department of Health reported a 30.2 percent positivity rate for PCR tests in Alexandria, compared to 15 percent for the state as a whole.
Mayor Justin Wilson said in a Thursday virtual town hall there were 64 presumed or confirmed patients currently hospitalized at Inova Alexandria Hospital. The overall capacity at Inova Alexandria stands at about 69 percent, which Wilson said was lower than a previous report. The number includes elective surgeries, which were allowed to resume statewide on May 1. The entire Inova Health System has conducted around 18,400 tests, 5,253 of which are positive. The hospital system has reported 219 total deaths.