Amtrak Suspends DC-New York Acela Over Coronavirus

Fears have reduced demand for public transit.

Yet another major reaction. WaPo (“Amtrak cancels nonstop Acela service between Washington and New York amid coronavirus crisis“):

Amtrak’s is canceling its Acela nonstop service between Washington and New York amid the global coronavirus outbreak that has hurt travel demand.

“We are closely monitoring the coronavirus and are taking action based on guidance from public health experts,” the company said.

The nonstop Acela service, which launched last fall, will be suspended starting Tuesday through May 26. The company cited reduced demand for train service as concerns rise about the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. Amtrak anticipates other train schedule changes, including removing train cars or canceling trains when there are other alternatives for customers.

Amtrak has also suspended change fees on all existing and new reservations for tickets purchased before April 30 to accommodate concerned travelers, even though there are no coronavirus-related travel restrictions on the carrier.

My first reaction to the headline was that a non-stop train would presumably be safer from a disease spread standpoint than one with multiple stops. But this isn’t about containing the virus but rather the ripple effects of a scared public.

If we’re already taking measures this drastic, it’s going to be something like I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen a lot of epidemics in my time but none that have caused major shutdowns in the US like we’re already seeing.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Health
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    In February a friend told me that she’d be traveling on business most of March, but when we spoke the other night she told me that her company had cancelled her travel and that of several co-workers. She’s not unhappy.

    Noticed a headline at Memeorandum on Wednesday that the airlines and cruise ship industry are already lobbying Tiny for tax breaks.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    I wonder whether this isn’t due to companies worrying about liability if one of their employees has the illness and then passes it to everyone else. I don’t think it has anything to do with actual risk of catching anything.

    But then there’s actual risk and then there’s legal risk….and companies have probably checked with their legal departments and gotten back a “better safe than sorry” decision.

    So it’s the aggressiveness of the U.S. legal system that is causing all these downstream effects. What fun!

    (P.S. also probably because there’s just enough of a mortality rate for the company decision-makers in their 60s and 70s to be worried about their own health.)

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  3. Jen says:

    The issue I’m beginning to have is that reactions like this make me think we’re not being told something/everything.

    Everything I’ve read says that this disease is dispersed through heavy droplets. It isn’t aerosolized like measles, which can linger suspended in air for hours. These droplets are heavy and fall, so this should be less contagious than it seems to be.

    It’s hard not to start to get paranoid.

    2
  4. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Jen:
    True. Now compound that with an absence of reliable information about the viability and longevity of the virus when outside of a host environment.
    Absence of reliable information can fuel panic.

    (Not to promote a concern but the suggestion that persons who are well might consider wearing a face mask – Because by doing so REMINDS the wearer to keep their hands away from mucous membranes, nose and mouth specifically, seems like a reasonable practice)

    2
  5. Teve says:

    2 people in south Florida done died of it.

    ATLANTA – President Donald Trump said on Friday he would rather have passengers on a cruise ship, which was denied entry to San Francisco over coronavirus concerns, remain on board the vessel.

    But Trump said he would let others make the decision whether to allow the passengers to leave the Grand Princess ship, where 35 people have reported flu-like symptoms.

    “I’d rather have them stay on, personally, but I fully understand if they want to take them off,” Trump told reporters after touring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
    Otherwise, he said, allowing passengers back onto U.S. soil who might become sick later would end up increasing the number of coronavirus cases in the country.

    “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault,” he said.

    319 days left of this malignant dipshit.

    2
  6. John A Peabody says:

    Pretty blatant fear-mongering by the Washington Post and this OTB headline. Only the three non-stop Acela trains are being suspended until May 27. Well over a dozen trains (including Acela trains) will still be operating. These non-stop Acelas only started last fall. The number of seats available between New York and DC is only a marginal impact.

    But, yes, saying that all Acela train service is suspended is a helluva panic headline. I’m more surprised that the WaPo did not mention that it was only three trains.

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  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    The antidote to panic is reliable information from a trusted source. Has anyone you got one?

    Trump has reacted like the narcissist he is. He’s spreading lies. Now, I know the bar has been lowered so far that a president lying about a disease, encouraging people to take steps that would worsen the disease, is now normal. But if Trump and his toadies want less panic they should try not lying.

    6
  8. Kathy says:

    It’s hard sometimes to gauge whether a preventive measure worked, or whether there was less or no danger to begin with.

    Back in 2009 with the swine flu outbreak, restaurants, theaters, etc. closed down in Mexico City for weeks, among other measures of the sort. Cases were relatively few, deaths were relatively few (a stock of Tamiflu acquired during the bird flu scare earlier helped), and many bemoaned the lost business as a waste, because corpses weren’t piling up in the streets or something.

    I grant the level of concern, if not panic, is stronger now.

    BTW, I managed to catch a common cold, a very mild one too, during the swine flu outbreak. I’ve had to go to work long, long hours under harsher variants of a cold. This time I got sent home for three days.

  9. Teve says:

    It’s hard sometimes to gauge whether a preventive measure worked, or whether there was less or no danger to begin with.

    There’s an old line about people not getting credit for disasters averted. I know people who literally believe that the Y2K computer problem was just an overhyped scare tactic, and there was no real problem to begin with, because nothing very disastrous happened.

    Never mind that we spent $100 billion on the problem, and literally half the computer programmers I know had to work on it. One of my friends is a retired COBOL programmer, and she was offered $100 an hour by one bank to work on it.

    3
  10. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    Y2K is a good example. Much did happen, except it happened in the late 90s. Things like bank’s systems saying cards with an 00 or 01 expiration date had expired 97+ years ago.

    the press, as usual, did hype, and over-hype, many concerns. after all, a nuclear missile which requires orders and physically turning two launch keys to close a circuit, won’t arm, take off, fly, and detonate just because its internal date makes no sense. If there was any danger involving nukes, it was that they wouldn’t launch when ordered to.

    At the time, I was responsible for accounting, payroll, and sales software at a small company. the PCs we had did have 4-digit dates, but the software couldn’t handle them. We wound up upgrading to new versions(*) which did, and that was the extent of my Y2K efforts.

    another thing is that many people seemed to fail to grasp the problem. you know what helped me do so? A stack of receipts I saw at a store, which I noticed, at the time, had the year pre-printed as “197_.” this was in 1979, so I thought then “those won’t be any good next year.”

    (*) Those new versions ran on DOS. it seems odd to be running DOS software in 1999, but I maintain that, for those programs, the DOS versions were more efficient than the Windows versions. For one thing, there was a hot key feature in every menu, so you just had to press that key to open a sub-menu or run a feature. Whereas in Windows you had to look it up in the menu bar, to which you had to drag your mouse.

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  11. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    If there was any danger involving nukes, it was that they wouldn’t launch when ordered to.

    Just to be pedantic, we don’t know that they even fixed that.

    2
  12. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    True.

  13. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. I also suspect that the reason a lot of companies are being (IMHO) over-cautious is because there’s no way said companies can monetarily hedge against the risk. No such thing yet as “buying insurance against X getting caused by coronavirus.” Am sure that insurance companies would cheerfully sell such….except they don’t have enough data so far to be able to figure out what is going on.

    And now we’ve got a nit-witted POTUS and his merry band of enablers who aren’t even interested in the CDC doing sufficient tests so we can, indeed, “figure out what is going on.” Trump is terrified that testing will show that the coronavirus is already rampant in the US and the stock market will react with a splendid crash. (I don’t understand how he thinks the U.S. panicking because we don’t know what’s going on is any better, but I don’t think Trump thinks about anything more than 5 seconds ahead and his ego controls everything.)

    4
  14. Polimom says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The antidote to panic is reliable information from a trusted source. Has anyone you got one?

    I wish. I trust very VERY few sources on their faces these days. My current approach is to try to consume a story from both ends at the same time. Exhausting but occasionally helpful.

    1
  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy:

    A stack of receipts I saw at a store, which I noticed, at the time, had the year pre-printed as “197_.” this was in 1979, so I thought then “those won’t be any good next year.”

    The company that I worked for at the time had that problem with a few sets of invoice books. Someone asked if they should throw away the books. Our manager said that it wouldn’t be necessary–just cross out the 7.

    Of course, those were for handwritten invoices, so it might not work for all cases. 😉

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Polimom:
    There aren’t two sides to a pandemic, there’s accurate, vetted data on the one hand, and a lying narcissist on the other. So taking from both sides leaves you with essentially nothing of value.

    4
  17. Teve says:

    Polimom, here’s a NY Times article about coronavirus in NY State. If you could point out any lies, inaccuracies, etc., I’d appreciate it.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/07/nyregion/coronavirus-new-york-queens.html

    2
  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    The real epidemic is Dunning Kruger disease. It’s spreading like wildfire.

    There is a very large number of Americans who, despite having no great education, despite lacking any noticeable talent, despite having no particular success or accomplishment, are nevertheless convinced that they are the people who understand everything. It’s a sort of solipsism, as they blank out the outside world and see only what is already in their heads.

    And they are the definitive experts on what they already think they know. Having long ago shut down the reasoning, learning, evaluating parts of their brains, and having blocked all new data from entering, they are perfect in their ignorance.

    5
  19. Polimom says:

    @Teve: You’re presenting me with a link to a regional story (in the regional section of the paper, even). And… yes? Is there something more you’re looking for? You throw the words “lies and inaccuracies” at me and expect me to…. what? I didn’t use them.

    The point of your strawman is what, exactly?

    I’m assuming you’re taking issue with me saying I trust very few sources these days, and I try to consume stories from both sides? I had no idea that was such a controversial approach to the world. Hunh. Something new every day. I’m kinda disappointed that anyone would take issue with that, but I see from @Michael Reynolds‘s comment to me that it’s a new idea entirely.

    What a shame.

    1
  20. Teve says:

    I asked a question, that’s not a straw man argument. I subscribe to the New York Times, so if they’re not trustworthy I want to know. you think a lot of stuff is untrustworthy, so I wanted to see if that was true with this. here’s a non-regional story. If you find terrible inaccuracies or lies in there I’d really like to hear it.

    2
  21. Polimom says:

    @Teve: MMmmkay. I’ll get right on that for ya. LOL!!

  22. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: the only thing new about DK is the name. My Kentucky relatives were sending money to Jim Bakker 35 years ago, and laughing at those stupid scientists who think monkeys turn into humans.

    3
  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Polimom: I think Reynolds and Teve are challenging you on the statement below.

    I wish. I trust very VERY few sources on their faces these days.

    It seems pretty global and cynical to me, but I suppose everyone has to have a gig and a place to row it. Why you are choosing to row such a leaky one in these types of waters is another matter, but I don’t always succeed at being a better person, so your plight doesn’t trouble me much in this case. Continue being the contrarian. Go in peace and serve whatever master you choose.

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  24. Polimom says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I think you’re right. Not a good fit here for me at all, although in truth there are no echo chambers for people who can see both sides of things. Moderates are unicorns now.

    Times are very changed. Makes me very sad. Homeless I am. LOL!

  25. Teve says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I read local newspapers for years and wasn’t very impressed, and then one day 15 years ago due to circumstances I got daily access to the New York Times, and on Wednesday they publish the science section, and I was blown away. I know a good bit about science, and I could read 10 articles in the science section and not spot a single error. I’d never seen a newspaper like that, they were as good as Scientific American. So when I run into people who complain about them damn liberal news papers and they ain’t publish nothing but lies etc. I challenge them to show me some of those lies in random articles i pick and I’ve never had anyone succeed.

    Maybe it’s just because of the scientific training, but I like having beliefs I can back up. When people can show that I am wrong, I change my mind. I was wrong a few weeks ago about electronic voting, and now I have a different opinion about it. I like finding out that I’m wrong about something and changing my mind, because that makes me smarter. That’s half the reason I come to this website, there are some smart conservatives who can give good arguments. I don’t hang out with the idiots at Breitbart or Gateway Pundit, I come here because there are a few smart conservatives who might change my mind on something, and it’s a strangely good comment section that you don’t find most other places.

    2
  26. Polimom says:

    @Teve:

    So when I run into people who complain about them damn liberal news papers and they ain’t publish nothing but lies etc.

    Hey! Me too! Fun times!

    Oh wait. I bet you’re just tryin’ play cutesie with me here, right? Pretend you can read mah l’il ole mind…?

    You should definitely keep your day job, friend. Cuz your mind reading is horrendous.

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Moderates are unicorns now.

    Yes, of course…that damn Joe Biden is such an evil lefty…

    1
  28. DrDaveT says:

    @Polimom:

    Not a good fit here for me at all, although in truth there are no echo chambers for people who can see both sides of things.

    Sure there are. Most of the mainstream media resides in that bubble; the one where “balance” is more important than facts. Where an inability to discriminate between fact and fiction is called being “moderate”.

    Let me rephrase Teve’s question: if you can’t trust any particular data sources, how do you decide what is true? You can’t go by simple voting; there’s no reason to believe that the most widely-held beliefs are correct. Unless you happen to be well-versed in the particular topic at hand, you can’t judge based on your own expertise either. If you don’t recognize any reliable sources, all opinions are essentially equal.

    So how do you decide? It’s a serious problem, and you claimed to have found a process that works. We’d love to hear what it is.

    3
  29. MarkedMan says:

    I have a relative who “keeps an open mind” and gets input from as many sources as possible. She reads widely and watches all kinds of “fact based” television. It’s left her unable to distinguish between reliable, reality facing information sources and nonsense. So although she despises Trump and is basically on the progressive side of things she is also extremely anxious that there are forces trying to impose Sharia law on us and if we are not vigilant they will succeed. She is terrified of flying but cannot acknowledge it’s a safe mode of transportation and it’s unfortunate her anxiety closes her off from visiting places and people she wants to see. Instead she is convinced there are many more plane crashed than are in the news but the government and big business are covering them up. I could go on and on and on but bottom line her decision to weigh all news sources equally has contributed substantially to her anxieties, which in turn has made it increasingly difficult to get out and about.

    1
  30. MarkedMan says:

    I have a relative who “keeps an open mind” and gets input from as many sources as possible. She reads widely and watches all kinds of “fact based” television. It’s left her unable to distinguish between reliable, reality facing information sources and nonsense. So although she despises Trump and is basically on the progressive side of things she is also extremely anxious that there are forces trying to impose Sharia law on us and if we are not vigilant they will succeed. She is terrified of flying but cannot acknowledge it’s a safe mode of transportation and it’s unfortunate her anxiety closes her off from visiting places and people she wants to see. Instead she is convinced there are many more plane crashes than are in the news but the government and big business are covering them up. I could go on and on and on but bottom line her decision to weigh all news sources equally has contributed substantially to her anxieties, which in turn has made it increasingly difficult to get out and about.