North Carolina ferries getting scrubbed after every trip to prevent spread of coronavirus

Captain Matt Williams loads local and essential vehicles onto the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry Friday, March 20, 2020. With the coronavirus outbreak, passengers are asked to stay in the vehicles.

Inside the passenger cabin of a North Carolina ferry, the blue seats and their metal arm rests were gleaming.

Door knobs glistened and bathroom fixtures sparkled. The ferry, christened the Rodanthe, had just been cleaned — again.

“Any contact space, we sanitize it,” said Capt. Matt Williams.

With the coronavirus able to spread with a cough or a touch of the hand, ferry crews are scrubbing each ferry after every trip.

Even with visitors banned from the Outer Banks, ferries continue running regularly to Ocracoke transporting locals, construction equipment, grocery supply trucks, mail and trash to and from the mainland, said Joey McGrath, operations manager of the Hatteras Ferry Terminal.

Truck drivers are coming from metropolitan areas where the virus might be present. Anyone has the possibility of carrying the disease.

“Cleaning here is pretty much continuous,” McGrath said.

Ordinarily, each ferry carries hundreds of people a day. The deck would be packed with vehicles and people would be outside watching the scenery or hanging out inside the passenger cabin.

Now, the diminished troop of travelers are asked to stay in their cars and only go inside the passenger cabin to use the bathroom. The few pedestrians who travel should sit at one end of the cabin. The crew uses the other end.

Rodanthe crewmember Charlie Paul had at his disposal bottles of diluted bleach, disinfectant spray, fresh towels, paper wipes, rubber gloves and broom and dustpan.

The staff also cleans inside the ferry dock terminal all day. Dozens of brochures that once sat in rack on the wall were taken down as a precaution.

Matt Williams, captain, loads local and essential vehicles onto the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry Friday, March 20, 2020. With the coronavirus outbreak, passengers are asked to stay in the vehicles.

Matt Williams, captain, loads local and essential vehicles onto the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry Friday, March 20, 2020. With the coronavirus outbreak, passengers are asked to stay in the vehicles. (Stephen M. Katz/)

Hatteras ferry departures to Ocracoke were reduced to 11 from 14 each day to account for the reduced traffic and allow cleaning time, said North Carolina Ferry Division spokesman Tim Hass.

Other ferry routes were also trimmed.

“We’ll always be looking at traffic flows and adjust accordingly,” Hass said.

Jeff Hampton, 252-491-5272, jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com

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