HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- A dozen HART employees have tested positive for COVID-19 just as the state sees more than 6,500 cases overnight with nearly 2,000 right here in the Tampa Bay area.
But if you ride a HART bus, don’t be surprised if someone gets on and is allowed to ride without one. HART has a “no dispute” policy for drivers.
“I noticed everybody wears them, they don’t take them off, they keep them on the whole time, the bus driver he has on one,” said Jacqueline McArthur, who got off her bus at the HART University Area Transit Center.
McArthur even kept her’s on as she got off the bus. Preston Jordan did too, who doesn’t like seeing a face without one inside the bus.
”I think it’s not right. I don’t think it’s right, let’s just say you don’t care. That’s just how I feel. That’s just my opinion,” he said.
In Hillsborough County, in Tampa and in many places across the Tampa Bay area, masks are mandatory inside businesses and buses, but HART drivers say people are getting on without them.
One driver, who wished to remain anonymous, shared photos with us of people without masks and because of the HART policy, drivers can not pass by someone at a stop who doesn’t have a mask or deny them service.
HART says it’s for the driver’s safety but some say they are worried. Riders we spoke to are included.
“The job that I have requires us to wear masks, OK so I need to be, in my transit I need to be protected at all times, I feel,” said Jordan.
The policy tells drivers to let riders know a mask is required as they get on board, and encourage people without masks to social distance until they can get a mask. They’re also told to radio the control center or transit supervisor to meet them and give the rider a mask while they are available.
“Everybody’s health is at stake here and we’re trying to get back to normal. Do you know what I’m saying? And if it’s going to help, let’s do it,” Jordan said.
Drivers say they’d like to have masks readily available to pass out ON the bus but HART says the masks could be contaminated by a passenger which is why they give them to supervisors only.
All HART employees are now going through mandatory testing. HART says it is the only agency of its size in the state that’s requiring it. They say if a driver is not showing any symptoms, they can come back to work as they await their test results.
HART is posting updates on its blog when an employee tests positive. If it's a driver, HART is listing the routes the driver took on their last day, so riders can see if they were around that driver and take precautions.