Public transportation in Muskogee has seen a significant decrease of riders using their services because of COVID-19.
Dena Wilson, executive director of Muskogee County Transit (MCT), said the number of trips is "down to 100, and all of the routes together we average 200 to 300 trips on a normal day, and we're below 50 percent of where we were two weeks ago."
"We're considered critical essential infrastructure workforce. That's how Homeland Security labeled us," Wilson said. "We're going to do everything in our power to remain open and functional. That's our goal. I think we're far from seeing the worst of this and there's no way to predict what's going to happen from this point forward."
Meanwhile, Susan McHolland, the owner/operator of Mac's Cab in Muskogee, said she has cut "75 percent" of her service.
"I'm treading water at this point," she said. "Other cab companies have voluntarily shut down. We've backed off non-essential runs, such as, if you need beer or cigarettes. If I'm allowed to stay open, I would have to really change my method of operations. I have a lot of people who use me every day."
A recording on the Hometown Taxi phone leaves a message about being closed.
"Due to the health risk to our employees and drivers, we've decided to shut down temporarily," the message said.
The Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System also issued a statement this week that it will not stop its transportation service.
"Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System continues to use its Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) to transport Veterans with scheduled VA appointments and VA Community Care appointments in both Muskogee and Tulsa. The VTS Dispatcher will screen all Veterans prior to scheduling a ride and upon arrival. For more information, call (918) 577-3500 or toll free 1-888-397-8387," according to the statement.
KATS, Ki Bois Area Transit System, also has had reductions to its service. They service 12 counties, including Cherokee, McIntosh and Wagoner.
"We do Sooner Rides, which is Medicaid transportation, and it's now down 40 percent than what we're usually running," Transit Director Charla Sloan said. "We also have a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for people trying to get off welfare, and that has dropped drastically because a lot of people are going to vo-techs or colleges to get retrained to get a job. So many of the schools are closed. It's reduced probably about 85 percent."
All of the transportation companies are doing what they can to combat the virus, such as cleaning commonly touched items on a bus with a germicidal spray. The MCT has discontinued trips to Tulsa, and McHolland transports only one rider at a time.
"We're using a spray specifically designed to combat the coronavirus," MCT Operations Manager Jon Moore said.