At least 41 MTA workers have died during the COVID-19 pandemic - more than double the number of deaths at the NYPD and FDNY combined.
Union officials who represent MTA bus drivers believe transit and government officials were too slow to act. “I think our officials got it wrong," said John Costa, international president for the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents MTA bus drivers in Queens and Staten Island. "We needed those masks earlier. We needed to barricade them better in their compartments, in their driving areas, and we needed to have less people on the buses."
“We’re exposed to more people on a daily basis," said Richard Davis, who represents Manhattan and Bronx bus workers for Transport Workers Union Local 100. "More one-on-one contact.” The MTA had discouraged workers from wearing masks,
MTA officials said the agency was making extraordinary efforts in the face of the worst public health crisis in decades and that they acted as quickly as possible to protect workers and riders. They said they responded to workers’ safety concerns as soon as they could, ordering that equipment be scrubbed down and distributing other disinfectants as they have become available.
Patrick J. Foye, the M.T.A. chairman, who himself tested positive for coronavirus, said the agency initially followed guidance from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that healthy people did not need to wear face masks. “The M.T.A. has taken aggressive action to protect the health and safety of our heroic work force on the front lines of this crisis,” Mr. Foye said.
Before bus driver Ernesto Hernandez fell ill and died from coronavirus, he told his son he wanted protective gear. “Gloves, mask, eyewear, anything like that he was never given that, until he got sick and did not go back to work," Hernandez's son, Steven Jimenez tells NY1. “He said he wish he had some. But he said none of his colleagues and no one he knew had it.”
There's about 1,500 MTA employees who have tested positive among the 6,000 who have fallen sick or self-quarantined.