NBC Connecticut Investigates has learned that dozens of employees in CTtransit's New Haven Division have recently been infected with the coronavirus or have been quarantined since the beginning of February. There is growing concern over what employees believe could be a COVID-19 “hotspot” inside one of CTtransit’s largest facilities.
“This is alarming to us with the number of people in such a short period of time,” Ralph Buccitti, a representative from the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 281, said.
Buccitti represents bus drivers and maintenance workers in CTtransit's New Haven Division, which is headquartered at a facility on State Street in Hamden.
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“It started spiking in the building with office staff,” Buccitti said. “Managers were out.”
CTtransit confirms that since the start of the month, approximately 40 employees with ties to the State Street building have either tested positive for COVID-19 or they have been quarantined because of potential exposure to someone who had tested positive.
Buccitti said some workers have even been hospitalized.
Nearly 1,200 drivers and maintenance workers provide CTtransit bus service statewide. Approximately 300 employees work out of the Hamden location, according to Buccitti.
“The fear is that they’re going to be next,” Buccitti said. “What’s going to be done? What’s the company doing to protect us?”
“The safety of our employees and riders are of the utmost importance,” CTtransit General Manager Cole Pouliot wrote in a statement. “While we cannot pinpoint how the virus is transmitted for each person, there are many instances where the affected individual had close contact with family members, socialized with others outside of work, and returned from vacation with a positive test,” Pouliot added.
Pouliot said he is confident in the safety practices in place, such as contact tracing, the use of KN95 masks, increased deep cleaning and the closing off of “gathering points” at the building in question. CTtransit is in communication with the Quinnipiack Valley Health District about COVID-19 protocols, Pouliot said.
“This incident reinforces the necessity for all of us to remain vigilant in wearing our masks and practice social distancing whenever we are outside the home,” Pouliot said.
Union representatives elsewhere in the state said more precautions are needed across the entire CTtransit system.
“The protocol is not correct here,” said Veronica Chavers, a representative from ATU Local 443 in CTtransit’s Stamford Division. “People keep getting sick. Every week we have people out.”
“Everybody’s scared right now,” said Artan Martinaj, union representative with ATU Local 425, which serves CTtransit members in the Hartford Division. “Everybody’s panicking. What is next?”
CTtransit leadership said that additional safety measures could soon be implemented at the Hamden facility to further limit employee interaction.
Pouliot added that he is eager for all of CTtransit's workers to have the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.