Halifax bus driver tests positive for COVID-19
Transit union leader calls for new limits on how many passengers can board buses and ferries
The union that represents Halifax Transit drivers says a driver has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now self-isolating.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508 president Ken Wilson told CBC News a driver called him on Wednesday afternoon to inform him of the positive test result.
The driver last worked on Saturday, according to Wilson. The driver reportedly felt unusually fatigued after his shift, and was experiencing muscle aches and pains, prompting him to call 811 and leading to the test.
Despite still feeling the same symptoms that began on the weekend, Wilson said the driver "seems to be doing well."
Wilson said he was concerned that thousands of people may have been in contact with the driver since he contracted the virus.
Since the arrival of COVID-19, Halifax Transit has waived bus fares, instructed all passengers to load through the back door only, and blocked off or removed the seat directly behind drivers.
Wilson said Halifax was the first city in Canada to take those initiatives, but he'd like to see measures go further.
He is calling on Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, to impose tighter load limits on buses and ferries. Buses are currently limited to sitting room only and ferries to 50 passengers.
Wilson said Halifax should follow other Canadian transit services that are limiting buses to 10-15 passengers. On ferries, it should be around 20 passengers, he said.
Some routes are at or near capacity at peak times, Wilson said.
"The rest of the service is pretty well driving around empty. So I think the employer has to come up with a better way to put more service on the busier routes."
'Buses are essential'
The Halifax Regional Municipality confirmed the COVID-19 case in a news release, which said "all workspaces and vehicles, with which the individual was in contact, have already undergone cleanings as part of Halifax Transit's enhanced protocol."
The municipality said public health officials were tracing the driver's contacts and would notify anyone who might need to self-isolate or be tested for COVID-19.
Strang said during Wednesday's provincial coronavirus update that he wasn't familiar with the details of the case, but he was aware of the union's concerns about crowding.
He said he would consider new ways of keeping transit safe during the pandemic, but it would be maintained as an essential service.
"Buses are essential. We have people that need to get to work and not everybody has the luxury of being able to drive or it's short enough that they could walk," he said.
He added that others may need buses to get groceries or medication from the pharmacy.
"We have to balance safety on the bus with the essential need of many in our community who use the bus."