Metro Driver Tests Positive For COVID-19

An Akron Metro RTA bus driver has tested positive for the COVID-19 and has been placed in quarantine along with 13 Metro employees.

The bus driver last worked on Wednesday and was diagnosed on Thursday.

In the two weeks before testing positive, the operator drove the following routes, Monday through Friday:

Route 1: Inbound to transit center, 10:30 a.m., outbound 1 p.m., inbound 2 p.m., outbound, 4:25 p.m., inbound 5:32 p.m.

Route 2: Outbound from transit center 11:20 a.m., inbound 12:21 p.m., outbound 2:50 p.m. and inbound 3:49 p.m.

Any passengers who rode the routes the bus driver was on should monitor themselves for possible symptoms, contact their doctor if any symptoms develop, and self-quarantine for two weeks to avoid possible exposure to others.

Metro’s Director of Public Relations and Marketing Molly Becker said five Metro employees have been asked to contact their medical provider for further guidance.

The agency said the buses the driver operated have been sanitized.

The transit agency said it has seen a substantial decline in ridership during the pandemic and has asked the public to only ride if they are traveling for essential purposes.

Executive Director Dawn Distler has said ridership have dropped by nearly 60 percent compared with February’s patronage.

Since March 17, Metro has not been collecting fares from passengers, a practice that will continue for an indefinite period of time.

To promote social distancing aboard buses, Metro has assigned “chaser” buses to some routes during peak travel times.

Only about 15 passengers are allowed onboard at any given time and the chaser buses pick up riders who were left behind due to a full bus.

A recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal said most of those riding Metro are either headed home or going to a job at a business or service that has been deemed as essential.

Metro driver Wayne Cole told the newspaper that during the pandemic there’s been less talking with him and among passengers, and a noticeable amount of anxiety.

“You can feel the tension,” he said. “You can feel the fear. I think its paralyzed people a bit.”

Cole, a 20-year Metro driver, said the last time he saw similar behavior was following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Becker said this is the first time since she joined Metro that people have been told not to ride unless they must.

As an illustration of falling ridership, Route 2 on an average weekday in February would handle 1,842 riders. Last week, it was 959 riders, down 48 percent.

The route operates from the downtown Akron transit center southward to Interstate Parkway and Fortuna Drive.

During the pandemic the transit center has been closed to the public, and schedules and service have been reduced.

The agency’s 230 buses are getting more frequent cleaning, including a deep, three- to four-hour cleaning each day.

Previously, such cleanings were conducted on each bus on a monthly basis.

Metro has spent thus far this year $21,000 on cleaning supplies. Normally at this time it would have spent $2,000 to $5,000.

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