Every day, and especially amid COVID-19, Metro relies on the knowledge and recommendations of employees across our agency. Open communication is vital to our on-going commitment to improve operations, to better serve our customers, and to strengthen safety practices.
In recent weeks, Metro quickly took a number of steps in response to COVID-19—all driven by safety and guided by the expertise of Public Health – Seattle & King County.
- From the beginning of this pandemic, we strongly recommended that employees who are high-risk stay home to protect their health. We also strengthened our paid leave policies, including when federal leave became available.
- We increased the frequency of sanitizing and deep cleaning of vehicles and facilities (daily for vehicles and twice a day for high-touch areas at facilities), and continue to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to our drivers and other frontline employees.
- We minimized driver-to-passenger interaction by directing riders to board at rear doors if they are able, eliminating fares, and installing safety straps.
- We assembled a cleaning task force dedicated to rapid response and continuous improvement.
- And, we promote social distancing at bases and worksites, and onboard our vehicles and vessels—with work underway to expand these efforts.
The challenges of the current moment mean our frontline employees—custodial workers, electricians, engineers, mechanics, operators, water taxi crews, and many others—are keeping our county going. While many in our community are staying home, frontline transit employees move essential workers, medical personnel, and passengers who rely on Metro for access to food, medicine, and other necessities. During normal times, our frontline employees deserve our heartfelt gratitude for the positive contributions they make in our community. During this crisis, they need extra support and protection, and we are diligently working to address the changing environment to keep our employees and customers healthy and safe.
We are constantly exploring how safety can be further advanced—through equipment, policies, and practices. While our operators have been given the choice to wear their own masks from the beginning, we will now be providing them with masks in accordance with the CDC’s newer recommendations.
In a challenging procurement environment that affects our healthcare workers as well as providers of other essential services such as transit, Metro aims to distribute masks to our operators and frontline employees starting this week. Contingent upon the supply chain, Metro intends to provide each frontline employee, including operators, with two reusable cloth masks. This ensures they will have one mask to wear and an additional mask to clean and dry between shifts. Employees working with chemicals and cleaning supplies, such as in our Vehicle Maintenance department, will continue to receive personal protective equipment prescribed for the given task. Metro is providing guidance to ensure employees are using masks and other PPE correctly and benefiting from the full protection they provide.
We’re also making additional efforts to ensure ongoing, convenient access to comfort station facilities—particularly for operators but also for other frontline employees—since so many places previously relied upon have closed due to the pandemic.
In cases where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace, we inform other employees who have been in close contact. This protects the health of our colleagues and keeps them informed, and follows the evolving guidance of public health officials. Close contact is defined by Public Health – Seattle & King County as being within six feet of someone for 10 minutes or longer.
As previously shared, Metro will not publicly announce new positive diagnoses in workplaces since that could lead to individuals being identified and could cause other spaces to be mistakenly seen as being without risk. Additionally, if employees fear their privacy will be compromised, they may not seek needed medical care, which hinders the ability of public health officials to respond. We can’t emphasize enough that, at this point, we all have to assume there is a risk of exposure in any public space and act accordingly.
We are working in concert with the Executive, other King County departments, and unions to ensure employees are empowered to make the right decisions for themselves and their families. This includes making paid leave available, facilitating donated leave, fulfilling the promise of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), and providing choice in the leave options for colleagues who are high-risk, concerned about exposure, or caring for loved ones during this time.
We will continue to follow Public Health’s directives, including the CDC’s guidance on “What Bus Transit Operators Need to Know About COVID-19” and look to our frontline employees for additional suggestions and recommendations.
We offer our deep thanks to our frontline colleagues and strive to best support them in delivering the essential service of transit.
Rob Gannon, General Manager
Terry White, Deputy General Manager
Paul Brodeur, Marine Division Director
Diane Carlson, Capital Division Director
Tim Flanagan, Bus Operations Division Director
Ade Franklin, Transit Facilities Division Director
Evan Inkster, Interim Rail Division Director
Chris O’Claire, Mobility Division Director
Chris Parrott, Vehicle Maintenance Division Director
John Resha, Finance & Administration Division Director and Assistant General Manager
Lisa Voight, Employee Services Division Director and Interim Assistant General Manager