Just 14 days into the new year and 44 bus drivers, including contract workers, for Houston METRO have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks alone.
"Unfortunately our region did see a spike and METRO, as well, has seen an increase in COVID cases over the last couple of months," says Houston METRO Media Director Tracy Jackson.
At the start of November, Houston METRO had 264 workers, including 58 contractors, who had tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020. Now, after many gatherings over the holiday season, that number has grown by more than 200 in two months to 474 COVID-19 cases.
"184 of those employees are not frontline employees which means they did not have any contact with the public. Based on the contact tracing that we’ve done it appears most of the cases, the vast majority of the cases that we’ve seen are due to activities outside the job," Jackson explains.
METRO is doing a number of things to help keep its 4,200 employees and customers safe, including cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched areas.
"As you can see I’m working in the office today so the mask is on even though I’m in a Zoom interview. Safety first at METRO. All of the protocols public health officials have put in place we continue to emphasize and stress," Jackson says.
"They’re making sure that we’re distant when we sit," says Tyrone Willis who works downtown and uses METRO to get there. "Everyone is complying with what the mayor suggests to mask up. Some people have gloves. I have my gloves," Willis adds.
"We continue to stress, only essential trips, and fortunately our customers are adhering to that," explains Jackson who says even in the pandemic 130,000 Houstonians still depend daily on public transportation. "Our ridership is off significantly from the beginning of the pandemic until now. Bus service is down about 44%. Park and Ride Service is off about 88%". METRO has not had any service interruptions due to sick employees but Jackson says because ridership is down service in some areas has been cut, as well.
If you’d like to see if you were on a bus or a train driven by someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19 click here ridemetro.org and go to News Releases for that information.