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Press Release: Circulate Joins National Alliance to Tell White House: Transit Workers Need Better Protection from COVID-19


Contact: Maya Rosas, Director of Policy
310-804-5256 | [email protected]

Circulate Joins National Alliance to Tell White House:
Transit Workers Need Better Protection from COVID-19

Circulate San Diego and broad alliance of labor, business, and community advocates demand White House and CDC supply better protective equipment and guidance to safeguard the transit workforce who ensure other essential workers can provide medical care, food, and basic necessities.

Today, Circulate San Diego joined dozens of unions, business groups, economic justice organizations, and local transit advocates from across the nation requesting Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, strengthen federal coordination to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for transit workers.

As of this week, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of nearly 100 transit workers in the United States and six have tested positive for coronavirus in the San Diego region (MTS).

The victims include five bus operators and one Code Compliance Inspector.

The federal government can and must take stronger steps to prevent such loss of life.

Bus and train operators, maintenance workers, and cleaning staff at transit agencies in the San Diego region are putting their lives on the line as they enable essential travel and ensure the continued provision of food, medical care, and other basic goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without strong federal coordination to procure PPE for transit workers, they face needless risks on the job.

Based on guidance from infectious disease experts, Circulate San Diego demands consistent provision of N95 masks and other protective gear for frontline transit workers whose duties put them in close proximity to passengers, or require exposure to hazardous disinfectants. Circulate San Diego also urges the CDC to issue stronger guidance for MTS and NCTD and other transit agencies, including recommendations on how to ventilate transit vehicles to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

These measures must be put in place to protect the transit workforce, which in turn will strengthen the overall effort to control the pandemic and minimize the spread of COVID-19. Nearly 3 million Americans classified as essential workers typically commute on transit, according to a TransitCenter analysis of U.S. Census data, including 35% of essential workers in the San Diego region.

Protective gear for transit workers will have a strong multiplier effect, since reducing risk will increase the availability of the transit workforce, leading to greater provision of transit service, less crowding on transit vehicles, and lower rates of transmission among transit riders and thus the general population.

The alliance signing on to the letter reflects the broad public interest in protecting transit workers, encompassing labor, business, transportation, economic justice, environmental, and community-based organizations from dozens of states.

Supply chain issues affect every industry seeking protective gear. However, the need for transit workers is so urgent, and the consequences of further delay so dire, that federal action must be pursued as soon as possible. These protections will save the lives of transit workers, as well as the lives of nurses, doctors, food distribution workers, and other essential workers who rely on transit.

The full letter, including list of recommendations and signatories, is available here.

About Circulate San Diego
Circulate San Diego is a regional nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing mobility and making the region a better place to move, work, learn and play. Our work focuses on creating great mobility choices, more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, and land uses that promote sustainable growth. For more information, go to