Community Transit announced Thursday that four bus drivers have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, and as a result the transit agency will be implementing new procedures for bus riders starting Friday, March 20.
According to a statement from Community Transit CEO Emmett Thursday afternoon, all Community Transit buses will be fare free starting at 5 a.m. Friday, March 20. In addition, all riders will board and exit through the rear doors only. The front door will remain accessible for ADA customers only. The front 10 feet of all buses will be available for bus drivers and ADA customers only.
“These changes will help ensure that our drivers remain safe and healthy and better able to practice social distancing as advised by our public health professionals,” Heath said.
Heath said that the four drivers notified the agency of their health status on separate days and, based on schedules worked, it does not appear that the cases are directly related.
The Snohomish Health District has assigned a disease investigator “and is looking at any potential close contact they may have had, which the health district defines as spending 10 or more minutes within 6 feet of an individual,” Heath said. “In the event public health determines anyone was in close contact with these individuals, we will support them in the notification process.” Public health officials have said that given the high number of cases in our region, the drivers’ infections “may or may not be connected to our work environment,” he added.
Each of the employees self-quarantined for several days before notifying Community Transit, following the recommendations of staying home at the first sign of symptoms. Because of this, it has been between five and 13 days since each individual has been at work, Heath said. The transit agency is in communication with all drivers and is “supporting them with whatever assistance they need at this time,” he added.
“I want to reiterate with you that, throughout the growth of this pandemic, our number one focus has been on employee and customer health and safety,” Heath wrote. “We have followed closely the guidance from the Snohomish Health District and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address limiting the spread of COVID-19.”
Among the other steps Community Transit has taken:
- Providing hand sanitizer kits for coach operators who do not have access to handwashing facilities;
- Nightly disinfecting of buses and nightly cleaning of frequently used and high-touch areas of operations bases;
- Moving the majority of administrative employees to telecommuting;
- Increased policies and guidelines around social distancing at facilities and bases, including closure of bases to visitors;
- Began health screenings for all operations employees when reporting to work;
- Transitioned to boarding and exiting on back doors on Swift routes, a process the agency is now implementing across the entire fleet, to allow for more social distancing between riders and coach operators;
- Ongoing communication to employees and customers on health district and CDC guidelines.
Heath said that the Snohomish Health District has advised Community Transit against shutting down operations, but to continue with its disinfecting programs, promotion of good hygiene practices, social distancing, and any other recommendations the agency receives in the days and weeks ahead.
“Our agency is in a unique position,” Heath said. “We are committed to keeping our employees and riders safe. We also recognize the critical nature of our business. Our communities, including health care workers, continue to rely on the services we provide.”