Second Halifax Transit driver tests positive for COVID-19 in one week
HALIFAX -- A second Halifax Transit bus driver has tested positive for COVID-19.
On Friday evening, Halifax Transit was advised of the positive test.
Halifax Transit notes the driver who tested positive has not been in the workspace since March 31. Since then, all workspaces and vehicles the individual came in contact with have undergone cleanings as part of Halifax Transit’s enhanced protocol.
While having contracted the virus, the driver is doing well; however, it has affected his family.
"The driver is home, he's resting, his symptoms are fairly mild,” says Amalgamated Transit Union president, Ken Wilson. “His daughter also positive for COVID-19, she's 22 years old, and his wife is waiting for her results back now."
Industry in panic
The announcement comes after another bus driver tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday – in addition to two maintenance workers, also employed by Halifax Transit.
"Three of these infected cases as far as we know are not connected to travel,” says Wilson. “So it's starting to make me wonder if there's something going on at the Burnside garage specifically. We have some concerns about the cleaning protocols; we don't think they're being cleaned as thoroughly as we thought initially."
Wilson says he, as well as others in the public transit industry, haven't received the proper information they feel they need to protect themselves.
"I've never seen the membership, in my 22 years, this stressed, anxious and nervous," says Wilson. "We think the employer should at least communicate with us the buses, the shifts, the lobbies this person was on – so at least we can self-assess ourselves."
Halifax Transit has been designated by the Province of Nova Scotia an essential service under the current provincial state of emergency and says it will continue to provide the highest level of service that can reasonably be provided – while taking precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
On Friday Halifax Transit announced it would be implementing the following new measures for its various modes of transportation:
- Alternating seats will be blocked off with appropriate signage. This measure will further reduce capacity by approximately 50 per cent depending on the model of bus.
- Caution tape, previously at the front of the bus separating the operator from passengers, will be replaced with a yellow cord as a barricade. Additional signage will be in place, indicating which seats are reserved for passengers with mobility needs.
- Passengers will continue to use the rear doors unless the front doors are required for accessibility.
- Capacity will be reduced to 25 passengers per trip.
- Food and drink will be prohibited to reduce litter.
- Alternating seats will be blocked off with signage at some terminals.
Halifax Transit's decision to remain in operation is much appreciated by people who rely on it.
"I have to take the bus," says public transit user, Joedie Muise. "I can't take a taxi – I can't afford one. I don't have friends or family in the city to drive me around. The bus is my only way to get out; without it, I have no way to get around."
In addition to the weekend's changes, other measures have been taken to help reduce the spread of disease, including an increased frequency in wipe-downs of high-touch surfaces, the elimination of fares, having bus users enter and exit through the rear doors and limiting passengers on buses to seated passengers only.
Despite the precautions taken by Halifax Transit, passengers are remaining vigilant as well.
"I'm not touching my face, I'm trying to stay as far away as other people on the bus as I can," says Muise. "For the most part, we're all facing forward and no one is coughing into each others faces or anything like that."
Halifax Transit says the changes will significantly reduce capacity and as a result, noting transit should be used only for essential travel. Those who are feeling ill should not use any transit service until their health returns to normal.
"The buses are for essential purposes only, not for joyriding," says Wilson. "Just try to avoid the buses if you can."
Updates coming soon
Meanwhile, public health is expected to provide an update concerning the routes that may have been exposed to the latest driver to test positive.