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Union calls for Halifax Transit buses to be pulled after maintenance worker tests positive for COVID-19
HALIFAX -- The union representing Halifax Transit employees is calling for buses to be pulled off the road after an employee who works at the maintenance department in Burnside tested positive for COVID-19.
The Halifax Regional Municipality says Halifax Transit was notified about the case Wednesday evening.
HRM says staff working the evening shift were told to go home and the morning crew were told not to report for their shift.
The Burnside maintenance department workspace was disinfected, with a particular focus on high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, work surfaces, and tools.
No other details about the individual with COVID-19 have been released.
Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, insists transit users and members of the public aren’t at risk.
“This case does not reflect any change in the low-level risk and the importance of maintaining our buses as an essential public service,” said Strang during a news conference Thursday.
Public Health has said that the Burnside maintenance depot can continue to operate and employees who have not been contacted by Public Health can report to work at the direction of Halifax Transit.
But the transit union is calling for the entire fleet to be taken off the road for a 24-hour period to allow for a deep-cleaning of every vehicle.
“Locally in our city, when the mayor’s office, his office was compromised, his office was shut down for 14 days and his staff was sent home in self-isolation,” said Ken Wilson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 508.
“I don’t know how they expect Halifax Transit mechanics and operators to come and work in the same facility.”
Late Thursday afternoon, Halifax Transit tweeted that a number of routes would not be running Thursday evening.
A city spokesperson told CTV News that 17 buses aren’t running because of a local shortage of operational resources.
Later on Thursday evening, the municipality sent out another tweet advising riders that there would be less bus service starting Friday morning.
Halifax Transit said it would send out updated information on social media when it was available.
There is no word on whether that shortage and subsequent cancellation of some routes is connected to the case of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the union is also asking for a new pandemic operation plan, where only essential employees going to and from work would be able to ride.
But Strang noted during Thursday’s news conference that many people also rely on the bus in order to get essential items, like groceries and medication.
“Taking the bus is an important activity and necessary activity in our community,” he said.
As for the maintenance depot, HRM says adjustments are being made in shared work areas, such as spacing tables and chairs in the lunchroom, so employees can practise physical-distancing more easily.
Halifax Transit has been in contact with Public Health and is taking direction about what steps to take to protect employees.
Public Health has been in contact with the worker who tested positive for COVID-19 and is reaching out to anyone who was in close contact with them.
Those people are being told to self-isolate and they will be tested for COVID-19.
Nova Scotia announced five new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 73.