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March 25 Update on Community Transit COVID-19 Response

Mar 25, 2020


Statement from CEO Emmett Heath

 

 

Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath communicated this message to all agency employees Wednesday, March 25.

 

Community Transit Colleagues,

 

Good morning, I am writing with new updates related to our COVID-19 response.

 

Earlier this week, Governor Inslee issued a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order for our state, requiring every Washingtonian to stay home unless they need to pursue an essential activity. As he outlined, transit services are exempt from this order. At the local, state and federal level, transit is considered a critical service and we are asked to continue to operate so that first responders, medical staff and others who rely on us can continue to depend on Community Transit for transportation. What we offer to our community is vital and I thank you for all that you are doing to make this happen.

 

Our primary focus continues to be on the health, safety and wellbeing of you, your families and our customers. Snohomish County is experiencing an increasing number of reports of positive COVID-19 cases, directly affecting many people within our community.

 

According to public health, we currently have over 2,000 cases in the state and over 600 cases in Snohomish County. The county has the second highest number of cases in Washington State.

 

Unfortunately, many of us have been impacted by this personally.

 

New Reports from Employees

We have had five more employees inform us that their health care providers have told them that they have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. Please note that we have not received confirmation from public health officials on these tests but we want to be as transparent as possible with the information we have.

 

All followed guidance to stay home at the onset of symptoms, therefore none of them have been to work in the past week. Their last days of work were between the dates of March 5-17. If these presumptive positive tests are confirmed, we will follow guidance received from public health officials.

 

An additional eight employees have notified us that they have tests pending and are home, self-quarantining. Of those eight, none have been to work since March 17. In addition to that, we have eight employees who have had symptoms but tested negative.

 

Public health officials have advised the agency that given the high number of cases in our region, it is challenging to know whether or not infections occurred in the community or on the job.

 

As cases in Snohomish County continue to rise, we have seen a rise in the reported cases within our agency. We want to be as transparent as possible, even before we receive confirmation on positive tests from public health officials. For this reason, we will be posting an update on the number of presumptive positive and confirmed cases on our website here: https://www.communitytransit.org/coronavirus. This table will be updated as new information becomes available.

 

We are very disheartened and saddened that several of our employees have become ill from COVID-19 and are working to provide them with the support and resources they need. Our agency is obligated to protect the identity and privacy of our individual employees and we will adhere to state and federal guidelines that govern medical privacy. While we will be as transparent as possible, we will not share information that will risk this. At this time, in our community, we all have to assume that there is a risk of exposure in any public space and act accordingly.

 

Measures we are Taking

We continue to work closely with Snohomish Health District, and currently have staff incorporated into the Snohomish County Emergency Coordination Center (ECC). Use of the ECC is intended to provide support, coordination, and prioritization of resources throughout an incident like COVID-19.

As noted last week, the health district has reviewed our disinfection processes and advised us to continue with our current disinfecting program, which includes nightly disinfecting of our buses and nightly cleaning of frequently used and high-touch areas of operations bases.

As a reminder, here are the other steps we are taking to work to protect you and our customers:

 

  • 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;
  • Established policies and guidelines around social distancing at our facilities and bases including closure of bases to visitors;
  • Health screenings for all employees when entering the Merrill Creek Operating Base;
  • Suspended the collection of fares across all of our bus routes and limited rider boarding and exiting through the middle and rear doors only. The front door remains accessible for ADA customers only. The front 10 feet of all buses will be available for bus drivers and ADA customers only. This allows more social distancing between riders and coach operators. Please note that as Saturday, March 21, all single door 30 foot buses were removed from service.
  • Ongoing communication to employees and customers on health district and CDC guidelines.

 

The best way to protect you, your family and the community is to practice social distancing and stay home when you are sick.

 

We have confirmed that drive-thru COVID-19 testing is now available by appointment only for employees who work in public transportation as this falls under critical infrastructure. Please visit the Snohomish Health District website for more information on how to qualify for a test: http://www.snohd.org/blog.aspx.

 

If you are well and working at the base or another facility, please continue to use social distancing practices.

 

Supplemental Leave Reminder
The supplemental leave program we detailed on Friday is now in place and employees already are using this program. As a reminder, this leave provides support for:

  • Those who are in the high risk category as defined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) including pregnant woman, employees 60 years or older, and those with documented underlying medical conditions. 
  • Those who are living with someone who may be feeling symptoms associated with COVID-19. and
  • Those who need time to find replacement childcare, due to COVID-19 related school and place of care closures.

 

Thank You

As many of our local and state officials have shared, COVID-19 is everywhere in our community right now. We will continue to provide all of the support we can, working closely with the public health officials and our other community leaders. Our primary focus is on you, your family and our customers.

 

Thank you for all you do.

Emmett