In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, companies across the world have shifted gears to aid in helping the infected and flattening the curve. And while breweries making hand sanitizer or car companies making ventilators may be the first to come to mind, New York City medical professionals also received help from another unlikely source: a charter bus company.
In recent months, GOGO Charters—the largest professional charter bus service in North America
—transported over 250 medical workers to and from a field hospital established at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in New York City.
The Queens tennis center was converted into a field hospital on April 10, shortly after the peak number of active coronavirus cases were reported in NYC. The field hospital served as a 470-bed facility to treat COVID-19 patients and was created in part to relieve the overcrowded floors of nearby Elmhurst Hospital—one of the hardest-hit facilities in the city.
As the number of active COVID-19 cases climbed, NYC hospitals enlisted the help of primary nurses and temporary medical workers from outside the city limits. Since these essential workers were not New York locals, they needed reliable transportation between the field hospital and the respective hotels in which they were staying.
Upon the request of the hospital’s subcontracts manager, the GOGO Charters team assembled a fleet of 7 vehicles to ensure all essential medical personnel had a safe ride to and from shifts.
Shuttle services began in mid-April and scaled back as the rate of hospitalizations declined and as the last patients were discharged. Twice daily—at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.—the shuttles carried essential medical workers from the field hospital to their various hotels in Queens and lower Manhattan.
Sarah Nelson, Regional Sales Manager at GOGO Charters, said the chance to give back to critical frontline workers was a rewarding experience.
“We felt humbled to know that we could play an important role in ensuring that medical care was administered to patients when hospitals were overcapacity,” she said.
Efficiently transferring 250 passengers for weeks on end would normally be a tall order, especially during a pandemic when travel services are sparse. However, GOGO Charters was able to source vehicles from surrounding cities like Philadelphia for the shuttle circuit, thanks to its nationwide network of contacts and the work of its 24-hour reservation and operations teams.
“These were back-to-back days and long hours,” said GOGO Charters regional sales manager Sarah Nelson. “Handling these trips required making sure that we were available 24/7, as things can change at a moment’s notice for transportation on a very large scale.”
But from her perspective, the bus company’s contributions in the wake of the pandemic come as no surprise.
“I feel like our company has been very reliable and consistent for our clients,” Nelson said. “Our operations team did a wonderful job finding affiliates who we could count on and were willing to perform the scope of the work given the potential risk, trusting that we were handling everything safely and correctly.”
The GOGO Charters team ensured strict social-distancing guidelines were maintained throughout the duration of the shuttle service, for both the safety of the medical workers as well as the bus drivers. Passengers rode six feet apart in a staggered seating formation, all drivers and personnel wore proper PPE, and shuttles were thoroughly sanitized between shifts.