STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ) – A major community concern surrounding the spread of Covid-19 are transportation services. These include bus lines who are directly transporting passengers to Central Pennsylvania from places considered hotbeds for the coronavirus.
One such bus line is Megabus, who as of Thursday evening, made it’s final run from New York City (the epicenter of the virus) to State College.
Still, there’s concern from many local residents that since Megabus has been running trips from NYC to Happy Valley over the past month, the damage (in potentially spreading the virus) has already been done.
“There’s no screening getting onto the Megabus, and no screening getting off of the Megabus,” said Bellefonte resident Troy Butler.
As confirmed reports of the coronavirus continue to rise, Megabus has made daily runs from NYC to Pittsburgh, then back to NYC. Along the way, buses stop to pick-up and drop off riders in State College, at the Walmart parking lot along North Atherton Street.
This has local residents like Butler alarmed.
“It’s a big concern,” he said.
The most recent report from the Center for Disease Control shows 21,393 confirmed cases in New York City (the most of anywhere in the United States).
Both New York state and the federal government are asking anyone who’s been in NYC recently to self-quarantine for the next 14 days.
“To everyone who left New York City over the last few days… because of the rate of the number of cases: you may have been exposed before you left New York,” Dr. Deborah Birx, Coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday.
But, there is now way of knowing if passengers getting off any bus coming from NYC are self-quarantining.
“I can’t blame people for wanting to escape New York City. But there needs to be some sort of oversight or a temporary stoppage until we get a grip on this whole thing,” Butler said.
He added: “It’s could only take one or two people with the virus to eventually put our hospital system in a bind. So far we’ve been fortunate… but the cases keep growing everyday. It we keep bringing it in from other places, it’s gonna speed the process up.”
Thursday afternoon, Megabus put out a new policy stopping all bus runs to and from NYC.
The statement on the Megabus website reads: “In an abundance of caution and supporting the recommendation that anyone traveling from New York self-quarantine for 14 days, we have suspended all Megabus service in and out of New York City through Thursday, April 9th.”
But up until this decision, the company was not screening passengers for the virus.
“I have no idea who these passengers are, or where they’re staying. It’s not only them, I also could get the virus from people the passengers have come in contact with,” Butler said.
What about other bus companies?
Both Fullington and Greyhound bus companies said they’re not offering any direct service from NYC to WTAJ’s viewing area.
However, Greyhound said they will run three trips Friday to-and-from NYC out of Harrisburg. There will be Greyhound/Fullington buses offering connection service to those Harrisburg buses from Central PA bus stops (including DuBois and State College).
Martz bus company has discontinued all service to-and-from NYC and Philadelphia for two weeks.
Current laws on transportation from NYC
WTAJ reached out to PA Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman’s office who’s been talking with PA Governor Tom Wolf to see if transportation between NYC and PA can be further regulated.
“Because this is something that runs between two states, it becomes inter-state travel, and so the jurisdiction and any enforcement lies with the federal government… and at this point in time there is no travel ban. We are trying to look and see what agencies might be responsible for any type of safety concerns, and if there is an agency that oversees transportation companies,” said Jennifer Kocher, Communications Director for Senator Corman.
PA officials are working with members of congress to see what can be done to further regulate travel from NYC.
WTAJ reached out to the University Park Airport to see if they are implementing any travel restrictions from larger cities (like NYC). The airport, thus far, has not responded to requests for comment.
The final Megabus from NYC to State College stopped at 4:45 p.m. Thursday evening. The bus driver told WTAJ that no passenger got off at the stop.