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KSMU is dedicated to broadcasting critically important information as our community experiences the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, you'll find our ongoing coverage.

To Serve Seniors, One Small Town Amends Its Public Bus Route

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City of West Plains Website
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West Plains Transit

One small town in the Ozarks has three buses and one van in its public transportation fleet. 

Starting Monday, the City of West Plains is changing up its route to make sure senior citizens can get to the hospital, pharmacy and grocery store if needed—while keeping more physical distance between them to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

The transit system is limiting passengers to 10 people per bus and sanitizing before each ride.

It's uncertain, as the coronavirus spreads, how increasing restrictions will affect public transportation as states and towns implement tighter restrictions on gatherings in public places. The CDC is advising all Americans to keep at least six feet of physical distance from others whenever possible, especially for seniors and individuals with underlying health concerns. 

KSMU’s Jennifer Moore was joined on the phone by the transit manager, Mike Fallwell, who drives one of the buses.   He began by saying the priority bus stops will include housing units for seniors and lower-income residents. You can hear the interview excerpt below:

"They're just going because they have to. There's nobody going just to go shopping or anything. They're all going for medical needs and household food and stuff," Fallwell said, adding that many seniors are "really scared" right now about the coronavirus.

"Well, they're just hoping that they can find a cure for this pretty quick and wishing that there were more tests available because they're worried. They don't know if they've got it or not. And there's no test available for them right now, or they don't qualify for testing," Falwell said. 

So far, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in Howell County, where West Plains is the county seat.   

For those in West Plains who are not based on the route, or who need to go elsewhere may call 417-256-1241 to arrange pickup.  And the City of West Plains provided the following via email:

"Monday, March 23, the West Plains Transit will run every hour to these locations, beginning with: South Towers Apartments at 8 a.m., Walnut Grove Apartments at 8:02 a.m., Walmart at 8:17 a.m., West Vue Apartments at 8:30 a.m., OMC at 8:32 a.m., and Ramey Grocery Store at 8:35 a.m. with the last pickup of the day being at Ramey Grocery Store at 3:35 p.m. Due to the recommendation from the Howell County Health Department and the CDC, there will be no more than 10 people on the bus at a time, including the driver."

All buses will be cleaned between routes, Falwell said.

In Springfield, the buses with CU Transit Service are also running on a modified schedule and routes due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Route information is at cutransit.net or by calling the CU Transit office at 831-8782 Monday through Friday.

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