Motor and foot traffic appeared normal Friday on Main Street in Watsonville. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

I saw groups of people hanging out in the City Plaza downtown today. Scores of shoppers came and went from the Target store on Main Street. At times traffic looked near normal along Main Street and Freedom Boulevard. I saw a line of about 15 people waiting outside of Markley’s Indoor Range & Gun Shop on Blanca Lane off of Freedom Boulevard. The last time I was in Markley’s I did see guns and ammo for sale, so I’m guessing people are lined up for those products.

In response to the state’s declaration of a State of Emergency as a result of the threat of COVID-19, and other recent federal, state and county guidance, Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (METRO) is announcing sweeping changes, effective Monday.

On Thursday Governor Gavin Newsom ordered California residents to stay home (shelter in place) except to work and engage in essential services.  Included in this is mass transit and passenger rail, said Alex Clifford, METRO CEO/General Manager.  METRO will continue to provide fixed-route and paratransit service for as long as possible during this health pandemic.

However, in an effort to further protect METRO employees and the public, the following changes will start Monday:

• Due to decreased ridership, and in an attempt to reduce METRO bus operators’ exposure, all service provided by METRO will run daily but on the Saturday/Sunday schedule until further notice. That means fewer buses running; less frequency of service; later start and earlier end times.

• All School Term Service (ST) has been suspended until further notice.

• To help create safe social distancing, METRO will reduce/eliminate the interface with customers at the farebox by suspending the collection of fares on buses and ParaCruz paratransit services until further notice.

• All customers will enter and exit through the rear door of the bus until further notice. This applies to buses with two or more doors and is limited to buses in which the operator can actuate the rear door (newer buses). In all other cases, customers will continue to board at the front door and will not pay a fare.

• Buses that will allow customers to enter at the rear door will have a sign on the front door directing them to do so. People who wish to continue boarding and exiting through the front door for ADA purposes will be allowed to continue doing so.

Officials are urging all of us to wash our hands. Shelter in place at your home. Practice social distnacing. Use extra caution in touching surfaces like grocery cart and door handles, ATM machine keypads, gas pump handles and card swipe machines and on and on. I read a very informative article in the New York Times about the importance of cleaning your handheld phones. They advised to regularly strip off the case and soak it in hot soapy water and clean it well. Though Clorox wipes are hard to buy now, that is what they suggest to wipe down the phone regularly and not use sprays, that can seep into the keys and portals. People frequently touch a variety of surfaces in the day to day travels, then get a call and raise the phone to their faces, fingerprints, smudges and all.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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