Graham Kilmer

Bus Driver Tests Positive for COVID-19

Transit union calls for personal protective equipment for operators. MCTS says drivers protected by shield.

By - Mar 20th, 2020 04:15 pm
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Milwaukee County Transit System bus. Photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee County Transit System bus. Photo by Dave Reid.

A bus driver for the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) has COVID-19 according to the transit workers’ union leader James Macon. Transit system managing director Dan Boehm confirmed the positive test during a conference call after the article was published.

A document from Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, released to Urban Milwaukee by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998, says an individual was “evaluated and treated” at the hospital from March 18th through the 20th “for COVID-19, or respiratory infection by SARS-novel Coronavirus-2.”

Macon, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union 998, said this individual was a bus operator and they tested positive for COVID-19.

Bus drivers are protected by a shield from passengers. “The Milwaukee Health Department took a look at the shield and said they are not concerned about the contact between passengers and operators,” said Boehm in confirming the case. He also said, “We cooperated with the Milwaukee Health Department to identify other bus operators that may have shared a bus with that individual. Meaning that that operator drover for 8 hours pulled the bus over and somebody else got in.”

The document from Froedtert says the individual should be off work for two weeks and that they were given additional information on their condition, quarantine, and return to other activities, and “any release to work sooner than the above should be authorized by a medical caregiver.”

A press release from ATU expressed concerns that “[the] Governor’s orders on social distancing do not include public transit.” They say they do not have, and are unable to get, the “personal protective equipment that we feel is needed to provide a safe environment for the transit workers or the public.”

Macon told Urban Milwaukee the union is working with MCTS on how bus service will operate moving forward. He said some of his members still want to work, while others want to quarantine.

MCTS announced Friday afternoon that service would be reduced and would follow the Saturday system schedule. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said the county was experiencing a “dramatic reduction in ridership” on a conference call Friday afternoon.

“This adjustment means that Freeway Flyers – including Route 143: Ozaukee County Express – will not be operating. Weekend schedules remain unchanged with one exception; Route 137 will not operate to the House of Correction,” the announcement reads.

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