Coronavirus: 5 TTC employees test positive for COVID-19, nearly 700 in self-isolation

Five employees with the Toronto Transit Commission have tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 700 are in self-isolation.

The members include three operators, a mechanic apprentice, and a maintenance employee. One of the employees is being treated in hospital while the other four employees are at home.

“While serving Toronto during this coronavirus pandemic, TTC workers are understandably concerned about their health,” Carlos Santos, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, said in an e-mail.

Right now most TTC workers are not required to wear masks. However, Santos said the union is calling on the TTC to give workers access to personal protective equipment, including face masks.

“The TTC also needs to do more to ensure social distancing on crowded vehicles,” he said.

There have been multiple reports of packed buses on some TTC routes.

“We are aware that a small number of routes on major arterial roads are experiencing busy bus runs. While the buses are not full, we can certainly understand how people would be uncomfortable on them,” TTC spokesperson Stuart Green told Global News on Tuesday.

The statement from the TTC came after videos of transit users unable to social distance on TTC vehicles surfaced online.

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“We are working with our service planning team and through operator feedback to identify these routes and provide additional service when and where it is needed,” Green said.

Green also confirmed in addition to approximately 700 employees that are currently in self-isolation, an additional 2,300 employees are on sick leave. The amount of staff off accounts for approximately 20 per cent of their operational workforce.

He said the reduction in staff is having a major impact on service delivery right now, noting service levels have dropped nearly 30 per cent.

Meanwhile, Santos said the union and the TTC have implemented some changes as the outbreak grows.

“While we wish the TTC had moved sooner on changes, ATU Local 113 secured the following health protections for workers: rear-door boarding, social distancing at the front of TTC buses as operators are permitted to block the two seats behind the driver’s seat with tape, the temporary elimination of payment by cash, tickets or tokens on TTC buses, flexibility for fare collectors and customer service agents to work in TTC subway booths, increased cleaning and disinfection across the system, and the choice for TTC workers to protect themselves by wearing face masks on the job.”

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