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GRTC Employees Getting COVID-19 Tests After Driver Tests Positive

Bus at bus stop
GRTC bus routes may experience delays while employees are tested for COVID-19. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: GRTC says nearly 200 employees have been approved for free testing.

GRTC Spokesperson Carrie Rose Pace says the company’s human resources staff continue to respond to any requests or concerns.

The transit company also warned again that there could be service delays on Friday due to employee testing. GRTC says it plans to ensure all routes have at least one bus, or hourly service. 

ORIGINAL STORY:

Dozens of GRTC employees are requesting free coronavirus tests, after the transit company announced late Wednesday that a bus driver tested positive for the disease.

GRTC is partnering with Henrico County to refer employees to a free testing site at Virginia Center Commons. In a statement released Wednesday, the company said it was now recommending all employees get tested, and warned that bus service could be interrupted as a result.

“As operators take paid leave to be tested and await results, GRTC cautions all riders that there may be significant service disruptions or cancelations over the next two days,” the statement read. “GRTC requests that customers make alternative arrangements for all essential trips for the remainder of this week.”

Carrie Rose Pace, a spokesperson for GRTC, said as of Thursday, there were no service delays on fixed bus routes.

The company’s policy is that any employee who requests a test be placed on paid leave until a negative test result is returned. But a bus driver, who has been with GRTC for nearly three years, told VPM that they have had issues scheduling testing. The driver spoke with VPM on the condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation from GRTC or the union.

The driver said they set up their own appointment to get tested at a RiteAid on Friday, and per company policy, they tried to contact the human resources department to let the company know they were getting tested. After reaching out multiple times, they said it took about a day to hear back from HR, since phone lines were busy and no one initially responded to emails.

“They are feeding the public a lot of information, but behind the scenes there’s a lack of communication,” they said. “I’m not getting enough information to cover my own behind, because I need my job.”

The driver said without being able to communicate with HR directly, they were concerned they could be fired if they didn’t show up for their shift on Friday as they await test results.

The union representing GRTC employees did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Pace said GRTC’s three HR employees are handling a large number of calls and urged staff to be patient and persistent. So far, GRTC has scheduled tests for around 50 employees and dozens more are now waiting for an appointment.

“When I call [Human Resources], I’ve heard their phone ring at least twice while I’m on the phone with them, so their call volume is very high right now,” Pace said.

GRTC has been recommending employees for testing on a case-by-case basis since March. Only one other employee working in the administrative offices has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. High-touch surfaces at GRTC facilities and buses continue to be disinfected on a daily basis, Pace said.

She also encouraged bus riders to help keep drivers safe.

“Please follow CDC guidance for public health: wear a face covering if you can, leave the seat next to you empty, look for the follower bus because we’ve added extra buses in service to help passengers space out,” Pace said.

The latest information on service disruptions can be found at ridegrtc.com.

This story is developing. Check with VPM News for updates. 

Correction: The story previously reported that the bus driver was reaching out to the GRTC human resources department to schedule a test, which was incorrect. The driver was trying to get in touch with managers to let them know that they were getting tested, which is the company’s current policy. This has since been updated.