Coronavirus is hitting the MTA ranks hard as six transit workers have died of complications from the disease, not to mention a fire on Friday that killed a subway train conductor.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 said three of the dead were their own members and with the help of additional personal protective equipment from the national organization, they hope to protect their numbers.
This is on top of measures by the MTA to protect employees which have been put into place as the virus advances to 1,000 deaths statewide as of Monday. Scott Elijah, Caridad Santiago, Ernesto Hernandez, Victor Zapana and Warren Tucker held different positions within the New York City Transit.
“We are heartbroken at the passing of five heroic members of the New York City Transit family. Scott, Caridad, Ernesto, Victor and Warren were all inspiring and valued colleagues, well-loved and well-respected by their co-workers,” Feinberg said. “They dedicated their lives to serving the public and keeping New Yorkers moving. This is a tragic loss for the city.”
On March 26, New York City Transit conductor Peter Petrassi died after a battle with the coronavirus and by 3 a.m. Friday morning another 36-year-old operator Garrett Goble died after pulling into the 110th Street station on the 2 train due to a fire that left several others injured.
After Petrassi’s death, the union said that personal protective equipment, only supplied in limited amounts by the MTA, could have prevented the death. MTA had implemented rear-door boarding on buses and restricted seating in the first three rows to space drivers at a safe distance from the public.
“We recognize that we are the front-line transportation network that is really transporting the soldiers fighting this war against COVID-19. But we’re not going to be used as cannon fodder,” TWU President John Samuelsen said. “Unfortunately, I think the fatalities that you are seeing, and the amount of infections you are seeing among transit workers, could have been mitigated against if the PPE came a lot earlier than it did.”
The MTA has cited not only a shortage of personal protective equipment as a reason for their limited distribution to workers but also said they have been following guidelines from the CDC and other health organizations.
Now the MTA is distributing PPE to workers weekly and TWU International has been contributing to supplies of masks and gloves as well.
On March 28, MTA Chair Pat Foye himself was diagnosed with COVID-19 but was able to maintain a full schedule with mild symptoms as was Rick Cotton, head of the Port Authority, earlier in the month.