DENVER (CBS4) – More than 300,000 people, on average, use the Regional Transportation District services to get around the Denver Metro every week. With all of those people coming and going, RTD drivers tell CBS4 they’re worried about their health and the safety of the public they serve, because they believe they are ill-equipped to keep things clean during the outbreak of COVID-19.
“I just don’t believe that we have a system that’s adequate both for the operator and for the passengers of Colorado during this epidemic,” said George Lelesz, a train operator for RTD.
Lelesz has driven RTD trains since 2016. He and other employees say they haven’t received disinfectant wipes to clean their work areas and other parts of the trains and buses.
Instead, all they say they have been given is a small tube of hand sanitizing spray.
“It’s 0.33 of an ounce, it’s darn near empty and I got it this morning,” Lelesz said. “It’s supposed to be a spray that would keep this virus away, but I don’t see that as sufficient enough for us operators.”
Drivers say they do have access to gloves and they have been instructed to use glass cleaner, which has some alcohol in it. But Lelesz said he has not been given that glass cleaner.
“I’m 58 years old, I’m on the hit list of not recovering, but dying,” Lelesz said. “We need help.”
Mike Meader, Chief Safety and Security Officer for RTD, tells CBS4 the company has ordered more disinfectant supplies, but just like many others around the world, they’re having trouble getting more.
“We are in the same boat as everybody else is, everyone bought those things,” Meader said. “The people that make those things are just trying to get back in stock as quickly as possible. I know we’ve got some coming in (Saturday) as a matter of fact, and we’re getting them out to the operators just as quickly as we can.”
Meader also said RTD has already ordered thousands more personal hand sanitizers for its workers, and the company is doing a thorough wipe-down of every bus and train, every night, with an industrial-strength disinfectant.
“We’re cleaning the buses, the trains, every single night, with what they call EPA-emerging-virus-approved chemicals, which means it just has a better kill of that virus,” Meader said.
However, Lelesz said he has still found trash, like wrappers and cans, on his trains when he gets to work in the morning.
“RTD does the best that they possibly can, with the workforce that we have,” Lelesz said. “I found my cabs on both ends, were not sufficiently cleaned, I mean, something’s wrong here.”
RTD said because staff are stepping up their wipe-down efforts, some trash may be left behind, but that does not mean the train hasn’t been thoroughly disinfected.
Currently, no RTD employees have tested positive for the COVID-19, but RTD says it is monitoring four employees who are staying home, because they came in contact with someone who has it.
RTD said it is also following CDC guidelines in limiting public access to its buildings, to further prevent the spread.
“It’s around social distancing,” Meader said. “If you don’t absolutely have to have a meeting, or have someone in the building from a mission-central perspective, then we’re trying not to do that.”
Meanwhile, Lelesz hopes to see more disinfecting products available at work soon. Until then, he’s bringing his own.
“We need to figure this out, real quick, either shut it down, or make it sanitized,” Lelesz said. “It’s a danger to the public, and a danger to us operators.”
Additional Information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
- Practice good hygiene. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. In the absence of soap and water, use hand-sanitizer; use your elbow or sleeve to cover coughs and sneezes
- Stay home if you’re sick; keep your children home if they are sick. The illness can last for many days so make preparations now to work from home if possible.
- We advise Coloradans to always be prepared for an emergency– like a large snowstorm– and have a plan for your family. Make sure to have 72 hours of key supplies on hand like medications, infant formula, diapers, pet food, etc. FEMA guidance for pre-pandemic COVID-19 preparedness is available on Ready.gov.
- Stay informed with reliable, up-to-date information. People who have general questions about coronavirus disease 2019, can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 or email COHELP@RMPDC.org, for answers in English and Spanish (Español), Mandarin (普通话), and more.