Officials with MV Transportation, the independent contractor for the city of Santa Clarita’s transit services, confirmed two additional cases of COVID-19 and said the company is ramping up efforts to provide its drivers with protective gear necessary amid the coronavirus outbreak after some employees said they had not been provided with safety gear.
After three drivers tested positive for COVID-19, one of whom died March 31 after testing positive, at least two additional drivers were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, according to City Communications Manager Carrie Lujan.
Additional information about the drivers is not being released at this time due to privacy concerns. Jeff Womack, chief marketing officer for MV Transportation, declined Monday to comment on information about the driver who died, citing privacy issues.
In addition to enhancing its deep-cleaning protocols on all Santa Clarita buses, the company has “been sourcing gloves, hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes and providing those to our team members,” and on Sunday, placed an order for about 640,000 masks “that should arrive in the next couple of days that we’ll be distributing out centrally for our different divisions across the U.S.,” Womack said via a phone call Monday.
MV Transportation has more than 130 locations across the country and in Canada.
While the company said it had enhanced its cleaning procedures at the start of the virus outbreak, efforts to sanitize increased after drivers tested positive for COVID-19.
Concerned for their well being, some city bus drivers, who wished to remain unnamed in fear of risking their jobs, said they had not received the protective gear, although they had heard that all remaining drivers were given equipment such as masks and gloves.
“I have not been able to get a mask or gloves from work,” one driver said. “The only thing they have provided was hand sanitizer.”
Another driver, who was told to self-quarantine for 14 days due to exposure of at least one of the positive COVID-19 cases, said Tuesday, “I’m still noticing that some drivers are out without masks right now.”
Womack said the company, like many more dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic, has had to source their supplies as they “have been tight,” which has prompted MV Transportation to increase its orders of personal protective equipment, particularly masks, as “those have been the most difficult to get.”
Health and government officials have recently reiterated a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment, particularly for medical professionals, who have had to reuse their gear.
The Centers for Disease Control recently changed its safety guidelines to reflect that everyone should wear masks when outdoors in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.
Womack said MV Transportation had been closely following the CDC’s guidelines, which have changed over time, and now require that everyone wear masks, even if that means making one’s own masks.
“We’ve always allowed operators to wear them if they have their own if our sources haven’t been able to catch up with us,” he said. “And now we’re doing a much better job of getting to the front of the line and getting some of those masks in.”