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Second RTA driver tests positive for coronavirus; transit system to start daily temperature checks for workers

A second bus driver with the Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland has tested positive for coronavirus, Howard County confirmed Wednesday. The announcement of the second case comes two weeks after the first case was confirmed by the Howard County Health Department.

The driver, who was last at work on March 30, is not a Howard County resident, according to the health department, and drove Route 503 in Howard and Prince George’s counties.

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The first driver, who is a Howard County resident and was last at work on March 27, has not yet returned to the RTA as of Wednesday, according to Bruce Gartner, head of the county’s Office of Transportation.

“The driver used the same bus on his last two shifts over two weeks ago,” Gartner said. “The bus was disinfected from March 27 through April 6, and it was then taken out of service for mechanical repairs and sent to an outside vendor.”

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Gartner said the RTA will begin offering daily temperature checks and screenings to employees starting “sometime next week,” via volunteer medical staff and equipment.

On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order requiring masks or face coverings for people riding public transportation or inside retail establishments in the state. The order, which will also apply to staff members of those services and businesses, will go into effect at 7 a.m. Saturday.

RTA, which primarily services Howard County, also has routes through Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties and the city of Laurel.

Ridership with the RTA is currently at 20% to 25% of normal levels as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Gartner added. The RTA has been operating on a modified Saturday/Sunday schedule since March 18 because of the pandemic, meaning buses have been running the routes less frequently than usual.

As of Wednesday, Gartner said there are no plans to change services or cut routes.

The driver is one of more than 10,000 residents statewide who have tested positive for coronavirus as of Wednesday. There are currently at least 424 confirmed cases in Howard County, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

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