ETHRA continuing senior transportation services during coronavirus pandemic


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A vital transportation system tasked with getting seniors and the disabled to and from doctor’s appointments is continuing in East Tennessee without interruption.

The transportation chief of the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency says the vans under his control will run without interruption.

ETHRA’s nonprofit public transit system, which includes a number of wheel-chair equipped vehicles, is considered a vital service for getting people to and from appointments.

Every area in Gina Solomon’s ETHRA van gets a thorough scrub down before she picks up passengers, and after she drops them off.

Gina is one of 112 drivers who transport several hundred people daily in the 16-county area served by ETHRA.

“We’re out as early as 3:30 in the morning. We have dialysis, doctor and surgery appointements. So, at 3:30 we are picking up and we are on the go.”

Gina Solomon

Mike Patterson directs ETHRA’s huge transportation system. He says while service is open to the general public on a first-call, first-served basis, priority is given for medical trips.

Since the pandemic was declared, there’s been a downturn in daily trips, but there will be no slow down in their mission.

“Normally we provide around 1,100 trips a day. Now we are down 27% and that number is dropping. We know it is going to drop like it is all across the country. The one thing I want our riders to understand is, we are going to provide transportation services until somebody tells us we got to stop.”

Mike Patterson

Once Solomon is out on the road, her focus is with the people she serves trying to keep discussions light and about anything but the virus.

“They think about it enough at home. So when they ride this bus, we don’t want them to think about it, just know that they’re safe.”

Gina Solomon

During this time of uncertainty, ETHRA’s frontline drivers are dedicated to providing safe and reliable transportation every day during this event.

The number of trips traveled daily by ETHRA vans has dropped.

That’s mainly because people are canceling trips to places that are closed during the pandemic. As long as doctor’s offices, dialysis centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities to remain open, the transportation service will operate as normal.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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