How are transit workers staying safe during COVID-19?

HOUSTON – Our transit workers risk their lives every day providing essential services to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Traffic Expert Anavid Reyes spoke to transit agencies here in Houston to see what they’re doing to keep workers safe.

After speaking with the Texas Department of Transportation and Houston METRO, both understand the risks when performing these essential services.

In fact, in a press release sent out in May by METRO, there’s been a total of 17 METRO employees who’ve tested positive for COVID19.

Transportation entities say they are doing their best to protect their employees and provide the proper safety protocol to keep them protected on the job.

As soon as these agencies received information from the Center for Disease Control and what they should do in terms of proper hygiene, they say they hit the ground running.

“We went as far as, changing the announcements on our systems, reminding people, if you feel sick stay home, make sure you wash your hands, all that kind of information,” said Jerome Gray, Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer with METRO.

For METRO, these new procedures started back in March. Since then, Gray says they’ve done even more, providing operators with protective equipment.

“...masks as well and hand sanitizers for their personal use,” said Gray.

METRO also added an extra sanitation time during the midday, focusing on high-touch areas like hand rails and seats.

To maintain social distancing, METRO also added more buses to popular routes.

“...we ask, that patrons also be aware that our operators may flash a sign on the front of the bus, that says please take the next bus, if it appears we have too many people on the bus,” said Gray.

We told you about METROLift’s new free grocery delivery program to help the elderly or disabled who can’t get to a store.

The importance of protecting employees as they execute this service is a high priority for them.

“We have two operators per vehicle, on each vehicle because we wanted to make sure that the operators were being safe,” said Director of METROLift Michael Andrade.

As part of the national CARES Act, METRO will receive nearly 250 million dollars to help cover operating costs, which include personal protective equipment materials.

TXDOT is also taking steps to maintain employee safety when meeting about closures or project updates.

“For instance, we would typically have what we call, partnering meetings .... now they’re doing that through teleconferencing,” said Danny Perez with TXDOT.

In terms of their field crews, Perez says, “we’re asking our contractors working with our project managers and inspectors to have those meetings held outdoors.”

TXDOT also knows, when on a construction site, there could be moments where they might be working close in proximity:

“...we are recommending that they use masks, and also to, use radios,” in order to communicate while keeping a safe distance, said Perez.

Reyes also spoke with a TXDOT employee who is doing her part to keep her community safe.

Lori Wilson, she works for TXDOT in Dallas, but on the side, serves as her neighborhood’s tailor.

Wilson felt the need to step up and do her part in this pandemic.

Since March, she’s made over 1 thousand face masks.

In fact, some of those masks have made it to Houston hospitals all the way from Dallas to help our front line warriors.