METRO seeing spike in coronavirus cases among workers but most got it away from work, spokesperson says

HOUSTON – Just like the rest of Houston, METRO is seeing a post-holiday-season spike in employees testing positive for the coronavirus.

In fact, four employees were added to that list in just the last four days. They include two bus operators and one METRORail operator.

However, this recent spike isn’t scaring some employees off the job.

In the middle of the bustling METRO hub in downtown Houston, you will find Lena Heller who wants to help keep the community safe. The METRO contract worker is tasked with sanitizing the buses that some 130,000 people ride each weekday.

“Every day, we have to get on the bus and sanitize where somebody sits, touch or, you know, rub up against,” Heller said.

Heller takes precautions so she doesn’t bring home COVID-19 to her family. So far, she’s stayed healthy.

Since March of last year, 475 of the roughly 4,000 METRO employees have tested positive. A total of 94 contract workers have also contracted the virus. Those numbers equal a little more than 10% of the transit authority’s workforce.

Of all the positive cases, 228 of the employees had no contact with the public.

“What we are finding is that the vast majority of cases are the result of activities outside of the job and not necessarily something that occurred while they were on duty,” said METRO spokesperson Tracy Jackson.

To help with social distancing, METRO cut the number of people allowed on board in half. Hand sanitizers are available and a protective barrier surrounds the drivers. Masks are also required.

“Several studies have been done, and in those studies, they haven’t found a correlation between public transit and the increase of transmission of Covid cases,” Jackson said.

Meanwhile, METRO wants its riders to know if they’ve been on a bus or train with a coronavirus-positive rider. That information is being posted on METRO’s website. You can also sign up for alerts on the agency’s website.