London Transit driver contracts COVID-19 as “essential” buses continue to run

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A London Transit driver tested positive for COVID-19, learned The Free Press.

The news – which was released to employees on Wednesday – comes as drivers are increasingly concerned about their safety at work.

Public health officials have alerted the public transit agency to an employee’s confirmed coronavirus case, but are not disclosing the names of those infected, said union president André Fournier.

“Now the members are more afraid. . . . If (the fear) was not exacerbated before, it will send it. The fact that they don’t know who the employee is makes matters worse. “

COVID-19 may require the isolation of other colleagues who were close to the employee, Fournier added.

The driver was on Highway 20, which runs east to west from Wonderland Road to Fanshawe College between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the past two weeks, the London Transit Commission has confirmed in an afternoon press release.

“The top priority of the commission is to provide support to this individual and their family, and to continue to help protect the health and safety of our employees, customers and the community,” the agency said. transport in the press release.

Anyone who has used Route 20 buses in the past two weeks should “keep practicing physical distance” and use the online assessment tool if they feel sick, LTC said.

London Transit drivers have already expressed serious concerns over the handling of the pandemic. Public transit continues to operate on a reduced schedule, as it is an essential service for people who need the bus to and from work, the grocery store, and more.

“I can’t say how proud I am of our employees, risking their lives every day to make sure people get there. Who would have thought we would say that – they’re risking their lives, ”said Fournier.

Three buses have already been removed from the road following suspected COVID-19 infections on board, said Fournier. These buses are taped outside the garage for three days to keep people out before being disinfected.

“The drivers are terrified, and in particular with this new COVID case, with a person who comes with him, so it starts,” said Fournier.

“How long can we maintain a system if our drivers are not protected and the virus continues to spread? “

Passengers board the bus from the back doors – and skip paying fares – until at least April 30 in order to keep people away from drivers. But those who need to use the ramp at the front of the bus, such as people with strollers or mobility devices, can still board the front.

Over the weekend, there were five refusals to work from drivers concerned about being in very close contact with people in wheelchairs. This equipment, including wheelchairs or electric scooters, must be attached to the front of the bus in accordance with the Highway Traffic Act.

“Ontario health and safety legislation provides a process that allows refusals to work for any employee, anywhere,” said Martin Stranak, union representative for maintenance and a member of the joint health committee. and security.

He said the drivers are worried about their families and subconsciously bring the coronavirus home from work.

Several drivers – all of whom requested anonymity, fearing retaliation for speaking – told The Free Press that they did not feel adequately protected while on the job, citing a lack of supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer. hands.

Fournier said the union had ordered plastic shields that attach to a cap for its drivers in the hopes of further protecting them from COVID-19, which passes through droplets in the air, as when a person sneezes or coughs.

Previously, some drivers used dust masks.

Two pairs of disposable gloves are provided at the start of each shift, and drivers also have thicker, washable gloves that come with their uniform.

“Everyone’s families are really, really upset,” added Fournier.

“I know some people don’t live together while this is happening. We are in the trenches here. “

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