KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ride the bus if you must. But this is not the time for joyriding.

That's the message Wednesday from Knoxville Area Transit as it tries to balance the need to carry people on public transportation with the need to ensure its drivers stay healthy.

Essential trips for which people should still keep riding include work, the grocery store and the drug store, KAT advises.

Drivers stopped collecting fares earlier this week.

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KAT suspended downtown trolley service March 20.
KAT suspended downtown trolley service March 20.
KAT

Seated drivers come into frequent contact with the public, stopping, starting, giving directions.

To help curtail the potential spread of COVID-19, the system announced it is hoping to keep bus loads to 10 passengers or less. That helps protects drivers as well as the people who are trying to get around.

Knox County has advised against holding events of more than 10 people and has promoted the value of keeping at least 6 feet away from anyone around you.

In a news release, Melissa Roberson, interim director of transit for the city of Knoxville said, “We appreciate the support and understanding of our passengers during this pandemic.”

KAT on Tuesday halted fare collections as another way to promote a reduction in close contact.

Last week, KAT suspended its red and green trolley service.