The COVID-19 pandemic has instilled fear in public transportation commuters and Colorado Springs-based nonprofit Envida wants to alleviate that fear.

Envida is taking extra care to sanitize transportation for disabled, elderly and economically disadvantaged residents of rural eastern El Paso County.

According to Gail Nehls, Envida chief executive director, the coronavirus has particularly impacted senior citizens who use the public transit system. Some residents believe public transit, because of the number of commuters, is a breeding ground for infectious diseases and illness.

Research shows that riding in poorly ventilated busses where people are in close proximity to each other can increase the risk of contracting a respiratory infection. For this reason, Envida wants citizens to know it’s safe to take advantage of its transportation and home care services as Colorado begins lifting its stay-at-home restrictions.

“As restrictions begin to lift, we are taking every precaution to ensure our clients and riders are safe. Most importantly, we want to communicate to our riders that it is safe to ride,” Nehls wrote on the company website.

Envida offers small buses and Ford transit vans equipped with lifts to help wheelchair and walker-using seniors and people who have trouble using stairs. If more than one person is scheduled to ride a vehicle, Envida uses a bus that maintains six feet of social distance. The buses are disinfected in between riders and are cleaned thoroughly daily, Nehls said.

“Our drivers wear gloves and masks, and we request that riders have masks or scarves. We disinfect vehicles after each rider, and we will open windows for fresh air, weather permitting. We have expanded service hours to meet riders,” Nehls said.

Public Relations Specialist Kim Brandon added, “Envida’s ‘Safe to Ride’ campaign assures riders that every precaution is being taken to keep them safe: disinfecting vehicles after each rider, drivers wearing PPE, riders wearing masks, gloves, etc.”

Envida transports riders to adult day programs, behavioral/mental health, education classes, medical appointments, recreation events, shopping and volunteer activities. “Most seniors enjoy the door-through-door service as the drivers are kind, compassionate and fun to talk to,” Nehls said.

Also, Envida offers home care services ranging from assistance with bathing, dressing and eating to toileting and moving around the house.

Nehls said Envida was created to serve disabled Pikes Peak region residents gain access to work, doctor appointments, meetings and social activities. Older adults, people with disabilities and using Health First in the Colorado Springs area are eligible to take advantage of Envida’s services.

“We also service Calhan, Peyton, Yoder and Rush. These rural routes are public transit and available to the public,” Nehls said.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Envida served more than 180 people daily, Nehls said. The number of people served rose as the pandemic grew, she said. “As of this week our ride numbers have been increasing,” Nehls said.

This increase helps to ensure that Envida will be able to continue its services. “Funding is a perennial challenge as our funding is primarily from public agencies like the City of Colorado Springs (and) the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority,” Nehls said.

Envida offers varied rate schedules for riders. People age 60 and above can ride for free but are asked for a donation. People on Medicaid are not accessed a fee but must be eligible.

Envida is located at 5650 N. Academy Blvd. Hours of operation are 5:30 a.m. — 8 p.m., Monday — Friday; and 8 a.m. — 4 p.m., Saturday. Call 719-633-4677 to schedule a ride. Learn more at envidacares.org.

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