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Two More MBTA Workers Test Positive For COVID-19, Bringing Total To 5

Two more MBTA employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of T workers infected to five, the transit agency confirmed Thursday.

"Yesterday, the MBTA was informed that two additional employees have tested positive for COVID-19, including one at the Southampton bus garage and one at the Orient Heights rail yard," MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a statement. "In keeping with [Centers For Disease Control and Prevention] and [Department of Public Health] guidance, the MBTA will inform employees who had prolonged direct contact with these employees."

The two new cases come after the MBTA announced three bus drivers had tested positive for COVID-19. The agency said Wednesday it immediately took steps to clean and disinfect the employees' workspace, vehicles and equipment they may have come into contact with at the T's Cabot bus facility. It's unclear if the vehicles are still in service, as the T did not immediately respond to a request for that information.

Public health officials will alert close contacts of the employees who tested positive and provide them with instructions for self-quarantine, the MBTA said previously.

"We ask the public to keep our employees in their thoughts, and I continue to express my deep gratitude to the women and men of the MBTA workforce who are serving a vital purpose in combatting COVID-19," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement Wednesday. "To ensure we can protect the health and safety of our workforce, we strongly urge essential travel only, and we will continue our enhanced protocols for cleaning and disinfecting all vehicles, equipment, and surfaces."

The transit agency is also urging people to only use the T for essential travel to limit the spread of the coronavirus during the pandemic.

It's unclear which routes the three MBTA bus drivers operated. In response to a request for more information, MBTA spokeswoman Lisa Battiston cited health privacy laws and said the agency is "prohibited from providing identifying information about a particular employee's medical status."

The Boston Carmen's Union, which represents over 6,000 MBTA workers, said it's concerned some members have tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement, union president Jim Evers said he hopes the T workers' efforts during the coronavirus pandemic are recognized when state officials make decisions about compensation and sick leave.

"As essential employees, our members report to work each day knowing they face this risk," Evers said in a statement. "The Carmen’s Union has been working in coordination with the MBTA to ensure the health and safety or our members, but nothing is foolproof when interacting with the public every day. Unfortunately, the T’s leave policies fall short of recognizing the sacrifice and dedication these employees are making every day on the job. We’ll fight for our members. Keep them in your prayers.”

Earlier this month, the MBTA began cleaning and disinfecting the entire system — stations, trains, buses and other vehicles — more frequently. Last week, the transit agency also added new cleaning and disinfecting measures for high-contact surfaces on buses during midday layover periods.

Last Saturday, the MBTA also began implementing rear-door boarding on all MBTA buses as well as street-level stops on the Green Line and Mattapan Line in an effort to help people keep their distance. Seniors and people with disabilities can still board through the front door.

Ridership has drastically declined across the transit system amid the coronavirus outbreak. The MBTA reduced service systemwide as a result of the drop-off and in response to the outbreak.

The T has since added back service on some key train lines and bus routes due to demand from essential workers, including those who need to get to hospitals and government offices.

This article was originally published on March 25, 2020.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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