SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio VIA Metropolitan Transit bus operator is stressing the importance of wearing a mask while, at the same time, sharing his growing concern as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“At the start of the pandemic, it was kind of scary,” the bus operator, who asked not to be identified, said. “It is still scary to this day. So many operators have contracted the virus.”
Every day, VIA releases the number of employees who have contracted COVID-19. As of Tuesday, 56 out of 1,200 bus operators have tested positive for the virus.
“The main thing that goes through my mind when I see a notification that another driver has tested positive is, ‘Could I be next?’ I am nervous a lot, a lot more than I used to be. Even now, my hand is shaking, and I am at home,” the bus operator said.
The bus operator said he follows the necessary health precautions as he makes his routes. He buses between 50 and 100 riders a day.
“Trying to get through the day just constantly washing hands and sanitizing hands and trying not to touch my face,” he said. “I don’t touch anything outside of the driver’s area.”
VIA has taken steps to protect its employees. The bus operator said he appreciates what the transit agency has done so far, but he is still concerned.
“It seems like the patrons are more important than the operators, and that is the sad part,” he said. “I know we are appreciated, but at the same time, you don’t feel that all the time.”
He said, more importantly, he hopes people will understand the importance of working together.
“If I have to drive eight, nine, or 10 hours a day with a mask on, then everybody else should wear that mask just out of respect to each other,” he said.
VIA released the following statement:
“What is VIA doing to help protect its bus operators?
“VIA has stepped up its cleaning procedures for buses, vans and facilities. This includes daily cleaning—at the end of the run and throughout the day—with EPA-approved solution that kills germs that can cause illness.
“We have removed or restricted access to the seats nearest to the driver’s seat on our vehicles. We are enforcing safe capacity limits on all vehicles (16 per bus/per trip, for example). This helps reduce interaction and promote social distancing for passengers and operators.
“VIA Operators have access to hand sanitizer, wipes, gloves and masks. We issue masks to all operators and front-line workers. These are mandatory for all employees while working or while at a VIA facility. In addition, protective plastic shields have been installed on all driver cabins for buses and vans. These droplet-resistant, clear-plastic curtains are temporary. Permanent shields will be installed in the future.
“VIA requires all passengers to wear a facial covering over the nose and mouth whenever social distancing is not possible, such as aboard a bus or at a transit facility, until further notice.
“Temperature checks are administered to all employees upon arriving for work. Up-to-date information on how to stay healthy and safe is available to operators and employees online, in office areas, aboard buses, and at transit centers and Park & Ride facilities.
“Additionally, all employees have access to VIA’s Employee Assistance Program that includes counseling and mental health resources. We’ll continue with all recommended precautions to keep customers and employees safe. See additional information about VIA’s coronavirus response and prevention efforts on our website at VIAinfo.net/covid-19.
“Are there any changes or improvements VIA plans moving forward?
We’re always monitoring and assessing factors and conditions and will update protocols as needed. There are no immediate plans to add a new measure. We will continue working to enhance the steps we’re taking to protect employees and customers.”