Sackville Terminal closed after Halifax Transit driver taken to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms
HALIFAX -- A Halifax Transit bus driver was taken to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms Monday morning, prompting the closure of a bus terminal and concern for other drivers.
Ken Wilson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508, the union representing Halifax Transit operators, says that around 7:45 a.m. Monday, a bus driver called an ambulance to the Sackville Terminal.
Wilson says the driver was suffering from COVID-like symptoms, including shortness of breath.
The driver called himself an ambulance and two other drivers assisted him. All three drivers were sent for testing and relieved of their duties for the day.
The bus was towed back to the depot for cleaning. Wilson doesn’t believe any passengers were exposed to the driver.
“My understanding is that he was out of service when he arrived to Sackville, so I don’tthink there were any passengers affected,” says Wilson.
The Sackville terminal was closed to the public for cleaning for several hours. It reopened early Monday afternoon.
A city spokesperson said the terminal was closed as a precautionary measure.
“In situations where a municipal employee discloses he or she feels unwell, we follow internal protocols which includes an assessment of where the employee was and what contact they had with other employees, public spaces and work spaces that may require additional cleaning regimes,” said Halifax spokesperson Erin DiCarlo in an email.
Wilson learned late Monday afternoon that the driver's test results came back negative, but he's still worried about the safety of transit drivers during the pandemic.
Wilson says he is concerned that the Sackville Terminal was closed, but not the operators’ lobby at Ragged Lake, where the driver may have been in contact with as many as 20 to 30 other operators before his shift began Monday morning.
“The Sackville Terminal was closed immediately for cleaning and disinfecting, but the Ragged Lake facility, which has a bus operators lobby that holds 30 to 40 operators, where this operator was this morning in close proximity to other operators, was not shut down immediately,” explains Wilson. “My members along with myself are wondering why that is.”
Wilson says he has received several phone calls throughout the day from operators asking if they should get tested.
“A lot of operators are questioning the fact that they don’t know who has symptoms, because the employer won’t release that due to confidentiality. They don’t know if they were in close contact with each other,” explains Wilson. “I had one operator who called and said, ‘I’m sitting in my driveway and don’t know if I can go inside or not because I have small children. So it’s the same concerns we’ve dealt with in March, April and May.”
Wilson has been asking for Halifax Transit to make masks or face coverings mandatory for passengers since March, and is disappointed at the lack of response, pointing to other municipalities, including Toronto’s TTC as examples of larger transit networks that have mandated masks.
“In four months I don’t think Transit has learned anything,” says Wilson. “We were one of the first transit unions to ask for masks in Canada, and we still don’t have it.”
In June, a Halifax spokesperson told CTV Atlantic that while masks were not mandatory, the city strongly encouraged all Halifax Transit riders to wear masks when possible.
“Transit’s running a business,” says Wilson. “They’re responsible for every operator and every employee’s health and safety. I think it’s their obligation to mandate masks and not wait for someone else to do it who isn’t running their business.”
DiCarlo says, if a municipal employee tests positive for COVID-19, public health will complete contact tracing to identify all those who have been in close contact with the individual.