RTD bus drivers say transit agency not doing enough to protect them from COVID-19

Drivers want masks, protection from passengers
Posted at 1:42 AM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 12:49:39-04

DENVER — Several longtime employees at RTD say the transit agency isn't doing enough to protect them from the novel coronavirus.

"It's pretty intense," one driver told Denver7. "We're on the front lines and we're likely being exposed to it."

The driver, who asked for anonymity, said RTD isn't providing masks or nearly enough cleaning supplies.

The driver added that some passengers wear masks, but most do not.

Another driver, who also asked to remain anonymous, said with more businesses shutting down during the pandemic, more homeless people are hopping on buses.

"There's more feces. ...There's more urinating on the bus. There's people spitting on the poles," the driver said.

Several local drivers said they were even more concerned about safety after learning about the death of a bus driver in Michigan.

Last month, a Detroiter, Jason Djinfinity Hargrove, posted a video message on Facebook calling out a passenger who had coughed repeatedly on his bus.

"You coughed without covering your mouth and you know that we're in the middle of the pandemic," Hargrove said.

Nearly two weeks weeks after that post, Hargrove himself was dead, an apparent victim of COVID-19.

"He's not the only one," a local driver said. "There are nine transit workers in New York that have lost their lives. ... One in Seattle and we have Washington, D.C. You just heard about Detroit."

One concerned driver took it upon themselves to hang a sheet of plastic around their driver's compartment, for a little more protection.

Another driver told Denver7 they've heard some employees have tested positive for COVID-19, but they don't know who or how many.

"We have operators whose health conditions are already compromised, whether through respiratory problems, or getting other medical treatment, and yet those workers are still asked to come to work," the driver said. "Those operators should be the ones pulled out of work and be paid. That's why we've got this relief fund."

RTD: 'Doing what we can'

Denver7 reached out to RTD to ask about the concerns outlined by the drivers.

A spokeswoman said they share COVID-19 information via daily email, a call-in line and via information hot sheets, which supervisors go over with employees.

She said one RTD employee has tested positive so far, and that that person is recovering. She added that the employee's work area was cleaned and disinfected.

As for supplies, RTD spokeswoman Tina Jaquez said, "We're doing what we can to obtain masks like everyone else, but it's difficult."

She said they've ordered gloves and cleaning supplies, and said the buses are disinfected daily at the end of the day.

Jaquez also said they doing what they can to better protect drivers by taping off the first few rows of some buses, and making passengers enter from the back.

When asked about claims that RTD is shutting down the TV room and sleep room, which are used by those with split shifts, Jaquez said the TV room and sleep room are smaller rooms with little space to spread out.

A driver said that means everyone now gets squeezed into one larger room, with little space for six foot buffers between employees..

One driver said they want more information about any employees who have tested positive.

"It is not being shared and I feel that is a violation of our rights, because we should be able to know that," they said.

A service employee said in addition to providing more PPE, RTD should clean out bus air filters daily.

Jaquez said they're trying to do what they can to keep employees and passengers safe.