The Central Ohio Transit Authority announced on Thursday that it will be temporarily suspending fare collection for all trips.
COTA also asked that, in the spirit of social distancing, riders enter and exit through the back of the bus. It also limited non-essential bus travel.
“The changes made are to protect our front-line employees, encourage social distancing, while maintaining mobility for essential trips,” the agency said on its website.
COTA defined essential travel as travel related to obtaining necessary services or supplies, to and from work, care of vulnerable people and dependents, to and from educational institutions to receive meals or material for distancing learning, or travel required by law enforcement or court order.
“We are focused on the health, safety and well-being of our employees, customers and neighbors,” COTA said on its website. “We appreciate your patience as we continue to monitor the situation and adjust daily.”
The agency said that there was around a 40 percent drop in ridership on March 16 compared to an average weekday since the beginning of March.
There are currently 119 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Those cases are spread across 24 counties and have resulted in 33 hospitalizations.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered the closure of all bars, barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, and tattoo parlors, as well as restricted restaurants to take-out or delivery only to help curb the spread of the virus. He has also prohibited the gathering of crowds of 50 or more.
There are currently more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Ohio and 150 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Everyone is in this fight, but we don’t need to go into the battlefield, we simply need to stay home,” DeWine said in a statement. “Social distancing is so critical, and many Ohioans are starting to understand its importance, but there are still some who don’t yet get it. This is a crisis that we have never seen in our lifetime, and everyone must recognize that their actions could have deadly consequences.”
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