Three CTtransit Workers Test Positive for COVID-19

“It’s getting crazy out here. It’s risking our life,” one CTtransit driver told NBC Connecticut.

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Three CTTransit workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials from the state Department of Transportation said one driver and two maintenance workers have tested positive for COVID-19. 

One of the three was within the last week, and that person has been on leave since March 28, according to DOT.

Nearly 1,200 drivers and maintenance workers provide CTtransit bus service. 

DOT said service providers requested face masks and other personal protective equipment and DOT ordered equipment through the state's emergency operations center and distributed 800 masks to staff.

They said an additional 14,000 have been requested from the state's EOC for employees.

At bus garages, transit workers have been instructed to increase social distancing and to minimize interpersonal contact while at work, according to DOT. 

 The breakrooms at bus garages have been closed and/or seating has been removed from these locations to enforce social distancing, according to the departments. 

DOT said CTtransit service providers are cleaning buses at least once daily and, in the busiest service areas, such as Hartford, New Haven and Stamford, buses are now being sanitized twice each day.

But the drivers who are still on the job fear that they may get sick next.

“It’s getting crazy out here. It’s risking our life,” said CTtransit operator Mario Donate. He believes driving a bus at this time is putting his health at risk.

“This virus, this coronavirus, is real. This is real,” Donate said. “If you don’t need to be out here, don’t come out here. Stay home. Stay safe.”

Despite the rules the public has been asked to follow, such as keeping distance from others and avoiding gatherings of more than five people, public transit drivers said passengers are not following the directives while on the bus.

“We have more than 10 (passengers); at least 15 to 20, and out of those 20 only two people are wearing masks.” Maria Maldonado, a CTtransit operator. “Are we risking our lives? Yes, we are,” she said.

Additionally, with bus fares waived until further notice, operators said there is an increase in people taking advantage of free rides.

“Give us essential workers, we’ll pick them up, we’ll drop them off,” said CTtransit operator Sharonda Gasque. “But we shouldn’t be picking up people that are not essential.”

Rear door boarding is in place and fare collection at the farebox is suspended.

“Helper” buses are being dispatched on the busier routes and around 100 buses have  transparent dividers between passengers and drivers.

DOT said it has ordered additional driver barriers to equip other buses in the fleet.   

Meanwhile, representatives from the local chapters of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) said the union organization purchased thousands of face masks on its own in order to get them to drivers more quickly.

Drivers, though, remained concerned about their health and about any illness they could inadvertently bring back to their homes.

“I have a newborn grandson that I haven’t been able to see because of all this,” said Melinda Lucre, a CTtransit operator.

“I’m concerned for my life and my family,” bus driver Donald Jones said.

CTDOT and CTtransit have been telling the public that the only people who should be riding on buses at this time are those going to and from work and those going out to get food or medicine.

The following document is guidance for Connecticut bus service providers.

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