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Detroit bus service restored after one-day shutdown

Pencils to be used for students checking out Chromebooks for at home work lay on a table at Roosevelt Elementary School in Keego Harbor, Mich. as the school remains closed due to COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, March 16, 2020. (Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press via AP)
March 17, 2020 - 3:46 PM

DETROIT - The mayor of Detroit pledged to hire more people to clean city buses and said rides will be free during the coronavirus crisis after residents suddenly were stranded Tuesday because drivers anxious about catching the disease didn't report to work.

“Every day brings new challenges. Nerves are on edge all the way around," Mayor Mike Duggan said when announcing a deal with unions.

Bus service was cancelled shortly after 8 a.m. due to a shortage of drivers. Workers coming off overnight shifts were puzzled when buses didn't arrive. People heading to jobs across the city were confused, too.

“How am I going to get to work?” a maintenance man, Amadou Sanders, 24, asked an Associated Press reporter.

Service will resume Wednesday and the city is waiving the typical $1.50 fare. Besides extra cleaning crews and no fares, the mayor said passengers will be asked to board and exit buses through their side-rear doors. An average of 85,000 people ride Detroit buses daily.

Glenn Tolbert, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, apologized to riders for the “unfortunate situation” Tuesday. He said drivers felt “they weren’t being heard.”

“I'd be mad, too," said rider Roshun Holloway, 27, who worked an overnight shift and waited more than two hours on Jefferson Avenue before learning that buses were cancelled. “People get on the bus without a mask, coughing.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a sweeping order Monday banning dine-in customers at restaurants and closing all bars, movie theatres, gyms and other sports facilities to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. But public transit is exempt from the crowd limits.

In addition to those restrictions, all Michigan schools were closed previously.

The state, meanwhile, reported 11 new COVID-19 cases, raising the number to 65 in 15 counties. There are only three cases in the northern Lower Peninsula and none in the Upper Peninsula.

People ages 60 to 69 make up 28% of cases. Among the infected are two state Corrections Department employees and a Detroit-area woman who was at AMC Fairlane 21 theatres in Dearborn on March 10. She hadn't travelled anywhere.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

“The best practices are if you think you're sick, then stay home,” said Whitmer, who issued an order relaxing regulations so hospitals can add beds, mobile facilities and use non-nurses to help feed and transport patients during the outbreak. “If you're a medically vulnerable person who thinks you've been exposed to COVID-19, you do need to get in touch with your health care provider and make a plan to get tested.”

Munson Healthcare, which operates hospitals in northern Michigan, said it had a patient in Traverse City and another in Gaylord, both with mild symptoms.

In Detroit’s public schools, all central office staff, administrators, cafeteria employees, police and security officers were told to report to work during the three-week classroom shutdown. All school buildings will be closed for cleaning.

The 51,000-student district will begin distributing carry-out breakfast and lunch Wednesday.

Looking ahead to local elections on May 5, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said she’s considering ways to protect the public, including elections by mail.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Associated Press writers John Flesher in Traverse City and David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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