GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Drivers for a local bus system say they're afraid after a coworker died of COVID-19.
Gwinnett County transit drivers are now pushing for everyone to wear a mask.
The group plans to gather on Friday to rally for a no mask-no ride policy.
“We are very, very afraid,” said local transit union leader Mikesha Walker.
Walker says the death of driver Eugene Presley just shows the danger of what her members face each day. Presley’s wife told Channel 2′s Tony Thomas by phone that she sees no other way her husband caught the virus than at work. He was sheltering in place otherwise.
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“It’s very critical that we revisit this,” Walker said.
Union leaders say they will now try and force the issues they've repeatedly asked for since the pandemic began – hazard pay, more sick leave and a no mask-no ride policy.
“We want the passengers to be required to wear a face covering of some sort to be able to board the bus,” Walker said.
The contractor that operates Gwinnett transit, Transdev, has made some changes, but not to the union's satisfaction.
Transdev did not respond for a request for comment, but it’s CEO emailed union leadership, saying “We continue to monitor this situation closely and are working to keep our employees safe as they provide essential services to our communities. I know that this is a strange time for everyone, but we are going to come out of this together.”
Some riders Thomas talked to were already wearing masks and said they support the drivers.
“I don’t want to catch the virus,” Vince Ward said. “I think everybody should wear a mask.”
Presley’s widow said her husband had just turned 61 last month and started feeling ill.
He died July 1 after being on a ventilator due to COVID-19 complications.