Santa Cruz METRO Covid-19
The 69W METRO bus pulls into the Santa Cruz METRO Center. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—A Santa Cruz METRO employee has tested positive for Covid-19.

The information surfaced in local media Friday and marks the first positive case in METRO’s staff of around 300 people.

“Out of respect for the employee’s privacy, we are not disclosing anything other than it was a METRO employee,” said METRO CEO Alex Clifford.

No services or routes have been altered since the positive test, Clifford said.

Clifford emphasized that no notices would go out to the public because of safety measures already being taken, including:

  • The installation of clear plastic curtains.
  • Bus operators and passengers always wear a face covering.
  • Increased air exchange within the bus.
  • A minimum of 6-feet of physical distancing between the passengers and the bus operator

“These criteria go both ways, that is, they protect the passengers from a potentially sick bus operator, and they protect the bus operator from potentially sick passengers,” Clifford said.

James Sandoval, General Chairperson for SMART Local 23, the union that represents METRO’s bus operators, has campaigned to limit the numbers of passengers aboard buses to keep riders and drivers safe. But METRO on June 28 chose to increase the maximum number of passengers from eight to 15.

“All [operators] agree that we need to reduce the capacity to eight (passengers)…. We’re on the buses and we know what is safe,” Sandoval said. 

There are currently 148 bus operators.

Sandoval said that METRO serves around 5 million riders a year but that ridership is now about 85% less.

“We have a virus that is out of control,” Sandoval said. “They’ve done a good job; we’ve agreed with everything they’ve done up until the capacity issue.”

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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