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OCTA Board commends essential workers, pilots distribution of free face coverings to passengers

More than 11,000 free face coverings have been distributed on select OC Buses in the first two weeks of a pilot project aimed at further protecting passengers’ health. The project is part of the Orange County Transportation Authority’s ongoing efforts to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) – a commitment reinforced this week through an OCTA Board of Directors’ resolution.

The resolution, approved by the OCTA Board on Monday, applauds the efforts of OCTA employees and essential workers throughout the county, and re-emphasizes the Board’s support for all necessary precautionary measures to fight COVID-19.

“The OC Bus system helps thousands of essential workers reach their jobs and many others reach critical services, and we want to do everything possible to help them travel safely,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “Every person that keeps our community moving, including our OCTA coach operators and maintenance and service workers, are the unsung heroes in this public health crisis.”

On July 27, OCTA began a pilot program on three of its busiest routes to distribute free face coverings for passengers who need them. The state requires that passengers wear face coverings while waiting for and riding public transit. Buses are equipped with onboard dispensers on Route 43 and Bravo! Route 543 that run along Harbor Boulevard between Fullerton and Costa Mesa, and Route 66, which runs along McFadden Avenue between Huntington Beach and Irvine.

As the system is refined, free face coverings will be made available on additional bus routes.

OCTA also is coordinating with community partners and local social-service agencies that work with vulnerable populations to make free, reusable face coverings available, helping get them to some passengers who may be most in need.

To date, 24 agencies have agreed to distribute the cloth face coverings and more than 7,100 are being sent to agencies such as Meals on Wheels of Orange County, Abrazar, The Salvation Army and the Assistance League Orange County.

The reusable cloth face coverings, also available for free to passengers at the OCTA Store in Orange, have been made available through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which supplied OCTA with 60,000 for distribution.

OCTA is reaching out to passengers to educate and remind them of the face covering requirement in multiple ways, including electronic signs at the front of the bus, signs above seating areas, onboard audio reminders in multiple languages, as well as marketing and communication efforts.

“The many steps OCTA has taken clearly demonstrate that safety is our top priority. We have and will continue to implement necessary measures to protect employees and the public during the pandemic,” said OCTA Vice Chairman Andrew Do, also the county’s First District Supervisor. “We will never waver from that commitment and we appreciate the public’s help in keeping our community strong and healthy.”

The distribution of face coverings is the latest in OCTA’s ongoing efforts to protect the health and safety of passengers and employees following the California governor’s March 4 State of Emergency orders.

Among those efforts are enhanced bus cleaning, installation of hand sanitizer on buses, requiring passengers to board through rear doors, limiting passengers on board for social distancing, and implementing employee COVID-19 screenings with temperature checks.

Throughout the public health crisis, OCTA has followed the guidance of federal, state and local health experts, in close coordination with the Orange County Health Care Agency. OCTA also has followed best practices implemented by the State of California, the FTA and the California Transit Association.

For more information, visit www.octa.net.

This article was released by the Orange County Transportation Authority.