Dallas company with 66 COVID-19 cases among employees underscores risk facing transit workers

4/20/20 Original Source: Dallas Business Journal https://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/news/2020/04/20/mv-transportation-covid-19.html

Tom Egan said the last few weeks have been gut-wrenching.

Egan, CEO of Dallas-based MV Transportation, has seen the havoc COVID-19 is wreaking across the country. He's also felt the impact within his own company.

About 40 percent of MV Transportation's business comes from paratransit services where the company transports people with disabilities. During the pandemic, the company is still carrying out some paratransit services in addition to transporting possible COVID-19 passengers to hospitals. That means thousands of MV Transportation employees are on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

As of Friday, MV Transportation said 66 employees tested positive for COVID-19. Four have died.

Egan said the service MV Transportation provides is vital and the company won't shut down.


MV Paratransit Rider

"Our passengers are some of the most needy passengers," Egan said. "We bring people to kidney dialysis. We bring folks to chemotherapy. A lot of our passengers, they have no other means of getting around. It's a federally mandated service so there is no way we can completely shut down."

MV Transportation has felt the impact of COVID-19 since the first cases in America started to pop up. One of MV Transportation's customers is King County, Washington, where Seattle sits. A person who used the company's transit services died of COVID-19 in early March. That's when the company started to understand the scope of the incoming pandemic, and got to work on a five-point response plan.

The first step was setting up a leadership plan of how the company will respond to the crisis and establishing who had decision-making authority.

The second step was making sure employees and passengers were protected.

Egan said the company ordered large amounts of hand sanitizer, and started sanitizing busses twice a day. The company also ordered additional personal protection equipment for employees like face protection, gloves and Tyvek suits. Driver rooms and break rooms were closed and check-in and check-out procedures were altered to conform with social distancing practices.

"I think the small number of cases that we've actually had for a company with 20,000 people, given the tremendous amount of public exposure, I think what we've done is working very well," Egan said.

The third step was reaching out to all 200 customers to do a situational assessment with each one. Egan said most customers, even if they aren't utilizing any transit services, are still paying nearly all their costs. A big reason why is when demand eventually comes back, they don't want MV Transportation to have to staff up again especially considering the nationwide driver shortage that's affecting everybody from trucking companies to bus systems.

Customers paying their bills has helped with step four — preserving cash so it could keep employees on the payroll. So far, the company has furloughed or laid off 2,000 of the 20,000 employees it had before the crisis, Egan said.

The last step was to engage industry peers, especially if the group needed to lobby Congress to obtain financial aid.

At this point, Egan doesn't think MV Transportation will need aid from the government. "But we want that option available to us if indeed there is a package that we would qualify for," he said.

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