A Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus driver has died of complications from COVID-19, Los Angeles County officials said Wednesday.
The operator, whose name has not been released, worked out of Division 2, a bus yard at 15th and San Pedro streets in downtown Los Angeles. He had been with the agency for 22 years, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said.
The operator is the second Metro employee to die of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. A driver based at the bus yard next to Union Station died in June, and a security guard working as a Metro contractor died in April.
The driver’s most recent route was Line 611, through Cudahy and Huntington Park, said coworkers who were not authorized to speak publicly. They said he was a soft-spoken man known for playing chess in the break room on a green-and-white checkered board.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of our bus operator, a long-time Metro employee who faithfully served the public for more than two decades,” said Metro Chief Executive Phil Washington in a statement. “We are greatly saddened by this loss as this pandemic continues to tear away the normalcy of our daily lives.”
Metro has reported 341 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among employees, contractors and vendors since March. Of those cases, at least 90 are bus drivers, according to the most recent data available.
After bus ridership plummeted 65%, Metro made deep cuts to service in April, reducing bus frequency by 29%. Ridership has since climbed slowly to about half of pre-pandemic levels, officials said.
Even with fewer people on board, bus drivers say they fear they could contract the virus from a passenger. Metro is allowing riders to board through the rear doors. Some drivers have used caution tape, bungee cords or seat belts to block off the front of the bus and prevent passengers from approaching them.
Metro made masks mandatory for all riders on May 11, one of the first U.S. transit agencies to do so. More than 95% of riders are now wearing masks, officials say.