Amtrak officials show what to expect if you're traveling by train for Thanksgiving

ByKris Reyes KGO logo
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
What to expect if you're using Amtrak during Thanksgiving week
Amtrak says while this year "it's not about encouraging people to travel," they are still taking extra steps to ensure it's safe for those that have to.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Although top health officials are advising people not to travel this Thanksgiving amid the coronavirus pandemic, it's inevitable that not everyone will listen. Companies like Amtrak are doing there best to make it as safe as possible for those who will be using their services.

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"They were really good about letting people know ahead of time to keep their masks on. Right now they are currently cleaning up, the told us not to board, so they can wipe down surfaces I believe," said Inigo Sherwani at the Amtrak station in San Jose.

She's traveling to see her partner for her birthday.

While Amtrak is far from welcoming the millions of travelers it normally sees on Thanksgiving week, they do want their passengers to know that things have changed.

Partnering up with George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health, Amtrak has developed new and enhanced cleaning measures -- including more frequent cleaning of trains and stations.

VIDEO: Will travelers follow California's new 14-day quarantine advisory?

At the domestic arrivals terminal at SFO, Saturday evening, we polled 12 different travelers coming into the Bay Area from all over the country to ask if they plan to follow the state's new 14-day quarantine travel advisory amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

They're also running their trains at about 50 percent capacity. Schedules and payments are accessed through an app for a contactless experience.

"I think this year, it's not about encouraging people to travel, it's about making sure that for those who need to, we are providing as safe as solution as possible," said Olivia Irvin, spokesperson for Amtrak.

UCSF epidemiologist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says train travel can be as safe as planes with the right protocols and as long as people follow the rules. He added that trains have comparable ventilation systems to planes.

Irvin says their trains have fresh air exchange, every four to five minutes.

RELATED: Local health officials urging public to be extra cautious during Thanksgiving

"So the upside, you don't have to spend time in a crowded airport," said Dr. Chin-Hong, but he warned people can also be more lax on a train.

"The train is a little less controlled, people walk up and down the train," he said.

That's his big message -- keep your masks on for the entire trip.

Sherwani says too often she sees other passengers take their masks off, as soon as they take a seat.

"I do feel safe, but I do wish that people would keep their masks on," she said.

Other tips from Dr. Chin-Hong -- try to sit next to a vent, crack open a window if you can and keep your masks on in the bathroom.

"Just don't drop your guard on a train," he said.

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