Bloomington public bus driver tests positive for COVID-19, BT still on course for closer-to-normal service on Aug. 24

In a press release issued late Monday afternoon, the city announced that a Bloomington Transit (BT) bus driver has tested positive for COVID-19.

croppped 2020-07-22 inside a bloomington transit bus IMG_5461
The caution tape separating drivers from passengers on Bloomington Transit buses will soon be replaced with plexiglass shields.

That’s the second BT employee who has tested positive for the pandemic disease. The first was a maintenance worker. Nine other city employees have also tested positive.

According to Monday’s release, the driver started having symptoms on Wednesday, July 29 and received the positive result on Saturday, Aug. 1. For Saturday, Monroe County’s total COVID-19 confirmed positive case count was 10.

The seven-day average daily case count in Monroe County has started to drop—it’s now around around 13, compared to 20 for the last week of July. The number of cases reported for Sunday was just 2, the lowest number since July 6, almost a month ago.

In July, the BT board approved a plan to resume certain aspects of normal service starting Aug. 24.

That includes opening the buses back up so that their full seating capacity can be used—they’re currently marked off with yellow caution tape to create distance between passengers and the driver. That’s made possible by the temporary policy of fare-free rides, and rear-door boarding.

After Aug. 24, the fare-free policy will continue, but passengers will be able to board through the front door and sit anywhere on the bus.

On Monday, The Square Beacon asked BT general manager Lew May, if the news of a driver’s diagnosis meant any change from the Aug. 24 resumption of some normal operations.

May didn’t indicate any different course would be charted, pointing to the plexiglass shields that are planned to be installed around the driver’s compartments. May described them as “what you see in grocery stores and other retail establishments to help shield drivers.”

The plexiglass panels were described at the July BT board meeting as including a hinged piece of plexiglass with a magnetic stop, that drivers will use to get access to their seats.

What happens if additional BT drives are diagnosed with COVID-19—so many that BT can’t operate its fleet of fixed route buses? Also at the July BT board meeting, the board authorized its president to sign a contract with Uber to provide stop-gap service.

Highlights of the BT-Uber deal include the payment by BT to Uber for individual fares up to $15. Any fare amount above $15 would be be paid by the passenger. The service would be available Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All trips would have to start and end inside the city limits of Bloomington

The contract includes a ceiling—the total payments can’t exceed $250,000.

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