NABSA Comments on Recent COVID-19 CDC Guidance

For the last decade, shared micromobility has proven to be an environmentally friendly, equitable, and affordable form of public transportation. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted that shared micromobility is an essential transportation service because of the unique ways that it not only connects people to transit through first/last mile trips and fills transit deserts, but also how it can provide resiliency for transit when there are temporary gaps in transit service. Immediately when the pandemic hit North America, shared micromobility systems rolled out heightened and responsive cleaning protocols and offered free or discounted essential worker programs to help people get to where they need to go.

Now a year later, vaccines are available, some shared micromobility systems are seeing record ridership, like in Philadelphia, New York, Austin, and scooters are as prolific as ever. And the CDC knows a lot more about COVID-19.

Shared micromobility services were quick to respond, as concerns for public health, safety, and strategies for mitigating transmission of the virus have been a top priority. Throughout the past year, systems throughout North America have been following the guidance of their local and national health agencies to promote public safety and awareness, and to protect operations staff. Cleaning and sanitization protocols were elevated to include the cleaning of each vehicle that came through a service depot, and in some locations corals, using products that met CDC recommendations for COVID-19 sanitation. These elevated cleaning protocols come at a cost and operational strain for shared micromobility systems.

In April of this year, the CDC came out with new guidance about the surface transmission of COVID-19 that deemphasizes surface sanitization as an effective method for preventing COVID-19 transmission. This CDC guidance states in conclusion to their new guidance that:

People can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 through contact with surfaces. However, based on available epidemiological data and studies of environmental transmission factors, surface transmission is not the main route by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the risk is considered to be low. The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. In most situations, cleaning surfaces using soap or detergent, and not disinfecting, is enough to reduce risk. Disinfection is recommended in indoor community settings where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours. The risk of fomite transmission can be reduced by wearing masks consistently and correctly, practicing hand hygiene, cleaning, and taking other measures to maintain healthy facilities.

As with most other aspects of public life during the pandemic, members of the public have taken responsibility for their own health and safety, for example, by wearing masks, carrying personal hand sanitizer, and practicing good hygiene in public spaces. Ridership is increasing as there is continued vaccination rollout and relaxation of limits on public gatherings. Increased sanitation protocols in some places are changing the unit economics of offering shared micromobility services. Decisions about sanitization and disinfecting bikes, scooters, and stations vary from system to system. We encourage cities, operators, and partners to re-evaluate the resources and efforts that they have been dedicating to disinfecting outdoor equipment. At a time when ridership is increasing as nations are re-opening, this re-evaluation will allow operators to better address operational needs due to the increased usage of shared micromobility systems.

As North America begins to emerge from the pandemic, shared micromobility systems continue to launch and expand. Thanks to all of the dedicated workers keeping us rolling.