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24 MBTA Workers Have Now Tested Positive For COVID-19

An MBTA Green Line train driver wearing a mask makes a stop at the Longwood Stop on Huntington Ave. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
An MBTA Green Line train driver wearing a mask makes a stop at the Longwood Stop on Huntington Ave. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

There are now 24 MBTA workers who have tested positive for COVID-19. More than half of those diagnosed are bus drivers, according to the transit agency.

The other infected workers include train drivers, inspectors, a supervisor and a fare equipment operator, according to the transit agency.

The latest cases show a jump from last week when the T reported 5 cases.

The MBTA said it has given bus and train drivers protective gear — including gloves, hand sanitizer and protective eyewear. The transit agency also said it continues to clean and disinfect the workspaces, vehicles and equipment used by the employees who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The T is also now checking the temperature of employees at bus garages before they start their shifts. The agency says anyone with a temperature over 100 degrees is asked to leave and contact their medical provider.

"We will be working in the coming days to add to and improve these measures," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak wrote in a memo to employees Monday, when the cases spiked to 18. "Your safety is our priority."

Poftak also noted that the MBTA is providing essential services to health care providers during the pandemic and "as society has seen increasing confirmed cases, so has the transit agency."

The T says it is working with its unions to provide additional protections to workers.

Boston Carmen's Union president Jim Evers, who previously criticized the T's leave policies, said he hopes workers are guaranteed compensation and coverage if they have to be out of work due to illness.

“Our members are concerned about their health and safety and their families' but they show up every day because other essential employees, like nurses and medical technicians, rely on public transportation," Evers said in a statement Wednesday. "Our members are heroes, just like the essential employees they transport. We have been working with the T to ensure adequate safety precautions, which protect riders as well as our members and as the situation continues to change and worsen, we will continue working with the T to enhance these protections."

Anyone who had direct contact with the infected employees will be contacted by public health officials, according to the MBTA.

A T spokesman said the agency has more than 2,600 bus, subway and trolley operators.

The rise in infections among T workers comes despite the agency's stepped up cleaning procedures. Earlier, this month the MBTA began cleaning and disinfecting the transit system more frequently. That includes trains, buses and other vehicles, as well as high-contact surfaces, such as handrails and fare equipment. The MBTA also implemented rear-door boarding on all MBTA buses, and street-level stops on the Green Line and Mattapan Line.

Ridership has fallen sharply on the transit system since the coronavirus outbreak. The MBTA even reduced its service systemwide, though had to add back service on some routes to accommodate healthcare and government workers.

This article was originally published on March 30, 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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