"These days, our response is very different."

If someone spits on an STA bus, Fixed Route Supervisor Raff Hairston hears about it and springs into action.

Hairston works at STA’s Boone campus and can often be found in dispatch, surrounded by real-time monitors and blinking streams of data.

“When someone does something like spit on a bus, it becomes a biohazard, especially with the coronavirus,” Hairston said. “In a normal situation, it would be cleaned up and mopped. But these days our response is very different.” 

During the national coronavirus emergency, that response can often mean taking a bus out of service completely.

Hairston is in close contact with STA service cleaners who he says are placed “strategically” along routes and at STA Plaza, a sort of rapid-reaction force that’s one element of the agency’s emergency measures to deal with the threat of COVID-19.

“This is the new normal,” Hairston said, “and it’s in addition to our enhanced disinfecting routine. We also now have all coaches disinfected every night, and we’re set up for midday and downtown at Park and Rides too.”

Hairston’s work day begins at 3 a.m. when he assigns drivers to buses, and fills out routes that need extra vehicles or attention. During the coronavirus emergency, helping to watch out for drivers’ health is a new responsibility.

“I make sure all the operators get the protection they need,” Hairston said. “That includes gloves, masks, and wipes for steering wheels and handrails. Passengers riding the bus need to be safe and so do our operators.”

Hairston might work behind-the-scenes, but his role is necessary to keep STA running. With Washington State Governor Jay Inslee classifying STA as an essential service during the national emergency, it’s something Hairston takes seriously.

“We’re here to do our job,” Hairston said. “Most people may or not appreciate it, but we’re here for them and we’re always going to do the best we can. We’re troopers.”

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