Despite the coronavirus, operations at the St. George Airport have been about as normal as possible. (Photo: Photo: Lexi Peery/The Spectrum & Daily News)
For the past few weeks, health officials across the country have made it clear how important it is to stay at home to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the United States.
From social distancing to community spread, Americans have been introduced to a whole new category of terminology designed to keep people away from others.
With fewer people out and about, transportation has become exceedingly unnecessary.
People still have places to go and things to do, of course, just not nearly as often.
What that means for those running the modes of transportation we have previously been using consistently remains to be seen.
Here is a look at how the coronavirus has affected the transportation industry in St. George.
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St. George Regional Airport
Despite the virus, operations at the St. George Airport have been about as normal as possible.
A few flights have been canceled but most have stayed on schedule even with the airport taking extra precautions as it relates to health safety.
One move that the airport has made in recent weeks is to stagger the schedules of its employees to mitigate damage in the event of an emergency.
St. George city spokesperson David Cordero talked about the changes and other moves the airport has made in recent weeks as the coronavirus spreads across the country.
“We looked at what would happen if someone on the staff had it and it spread and all of a sudden we were wiped out,” Cordero said. “In order to prevent that we came up with an A team and a B team so we would never have all the staff there at one time. Let’s say you have five people on and then when they’re done a fresh five come on and that way we’re not getting the whole group infected at once.”
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Another step the airport is taking towards keeping people safe has been asking those without tickets to refrain from coming into the airport altogether.
Even though the flights are still going on, people without tickets will have to stay outside or in their vehicles to limit the number of people inside the airport at one time.
For now, flights will continue to depart and land in the St. George Airport but not without a few safety measures being put in place first to help subdue the spread of the virus in Southern Utah.
St. George Shuttle
The popular St. George Shuttle long-distance service has not changed all too much outside of an update to cleaning policies.
Hundreds of people ride the shuttles on a daily basis and St. George Shuttle has taken measures to ensure their safety by disinfecting all touchpoints throughout the vehicle.
In a statement on their website, St. George Shuttle CEO CJ Wade acknowledged that the buses were already cleaned between each ride, but that the company is increasing their efforts anyway in light of the situation at hand.
“To put your minds at ease, we have already implemented, what I would call, proactively doing the things that are within our control,” Wade wrote. “We have always cleaned our vehicles before every run but due to the worldwide circumstances that are out of our control, we have extensively increased our efforts, disinfecting all touchpoints throughout our vehicles and are offering hand sanitizer to all passengers as added protection.”
The shuttles have and will continue to run on their typical schedules as more and more people stay home due to fear of either contracting or spreading the virus.
Wade says that St. George Shuttle will remain optimistic and continue to transport passengers to and from their locations safely
“We have chosen to keep moving forward by remaining cautious but optimistic. We will inform you as things evolve,” Wade wrote. “We will beat this by action not fear.”
Much like other transportation operations around town, SunTran has taken a few extra health measures but continues to serve the community and run its routes as normal.
“We’re running routes just as we normally have, doing some extra cleaning and things like that to keep our buses safer and disinfected but other than that we haven’t really changed anything else,” SunTran manager Mike Cardon said.
Cardon admitted that the number of riders has declined, but emphasized that it is to be expected with the statewide order to socially distance and stay at home if possible.
“Well, for the last two weeks our ridership is probably down 25 to 30 percent but this didn’t surprise anybody,” Cardon said.
Back in February during his annual State of the City address, St. George Mayor Jon Pike announced that SunTran would give free rides for three months from March 1 through May 31.
While fewer people have been taking the buses because of the coronavirus, Cardon says the financial side of the SunTran operation won’t suffer as much due to riders not having to pay anyway.
“SunTran is offering free ridership for March, April and May anyway so it hasn’t really had any effect on us at all,” Cardon said. “Other than the additional costs to disinfect the buses daily, there hasn’t been anything else that has really changed much.”
While the rest of the world waits on new information to develop as time passes, Cardon says SunTran will continue to monitor the situation and take it day by day.
“We’re taking a wait and see attitude and see what pans out because we’re in uncharted waters and don’t know what the future will bring as far as this virus goes,” Cardon said. “We’ll play it one day and one week at a time.”
Follow reporter Terell Wilkins on Twitter, @terelljwilkins, call him at 252-367-8463 or email him at [email protected]
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