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Update on COVID-19, Agency Going Fare Free During Public Health Emergency

Mar 19, 2020

Statement from CEO Emmett Heath

 

Community Transit Colleagues,

 

I am writing today to provide you with an update related to the COVID-19 virus.

 

We have received notification from four individual coach operators that their health care providers have informed them that they have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. Today, the Snohomish Health District has confirmed that employees have tested positive.

 

These employees notified us on separate days and, based on schedules worked, it does not appear that the cases are directly related. The health district has assigned a disease investigator and is looking at any potential close contact they may have had, which the health district defines as spending 10 or more minutes within 6 feet of an individual. In the event public health determines anyone was in close contact with these individuals, we will support them in the notification process. Public health officials have advised the agency that given the high number of cases in our region that they may or may not be connected to our work environment.

 

Each of these employees self-quarantined for several days before notifying us, following the recommendations of staying home at the first sign of symptoms. Because of this, it has been 5-13 days since each individual has been at work. We are in communication with them and are supporting them with whatever assistance they need at this time.

 

Effective at 5 a.m. on Friday, March 20, and until further notice, Community Transit will be implementing the following policy changes for public health and employee safety:

 

  • All Community Transit buses will be fare free.
  • All Community Transit buses will board and exit through the rear doors only. The front door will remain accessible for ADA customers only. The front 10 feet of all buses will be available for bus drivers and ADA customers only.

Board and exit on back door of the bus
These changes will help ensure that our drivers remain safe and healthy and better able to practice social distancing as advised by our public health professionals.

 

Additionally we have been in the process of developing a new supplemental paid leave program for all employees related to COVID-19. We will provide detailed information on that program tomorrow.

 

I want to reiterate with you that, throughout the growth of this pandemic, our number one focus has been on employee and customer health and safety. We have followed closely the guidance from the Snohomish Health District and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address limiting the spread of COVID-19.

 

Some of the other steps we have taken include:

 

  • Providing hand sanitizer kits for coach operators who do not have access to handwashing facilities;
  • Nightly disinfecting of our buses and nightly cleaning of frequently used and high touch areas of operations bases;
  • Moved the majority of our administrative employees to telecommuting;
  • Increased policies and guidelines around social distancing at our facilities and bases including closure of bases to visitors;
  • Began health screenings for all operations employees when reporting to work;
  • Transitioned to boarding and exiting on back doors on our Swift routes, and are now implementing across our entire fleet, to allow for more social distancing between riders and coach operators;
  • Ongoing communication to employees and customers on health district and CDC guidelines.

Our agency is in a unique position. We are committed to keeping our employees and riders safe. We also recognize the critical nature of our business. Our communities, including health care workers, continue to rely on the services we provide.

 

The Snohomish Health District has advised against shutting down operations, but to continue with our disinfecting programs, promotion of good hygiene practices, social distancing, and any other recommendations we receive in the days and weeks ahead.

 

Thank you for all that you do and for your service to our community. The health and safety of you and your families is incredibly important to me and the rest of our leadership team and we will do all that we can to help everyone stay healthy.

 

I have heard directly from some of you and your professionalism and dedication inspires me.

 

Emmett