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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Some taxi and limousine drivers at Pearson Airport in Toronto have died from COVID-19

As we continue to celebrate and support frontline healthcare workers who are sacrificing the most right now to fight COVID-19 under extremely dangerous conditions, we can't overlook others in public-facing positions who are taking risks with their health and safety to keep working, too.

Along with employees of essential businesses, cleaners, delivery and post office staff, public transit workers, those transporting essential goods and others are the drivers who are keeping residents moving where they need to go.

Keeping the requisite two-metre distance from others is difficult within the confines of a vehicle, and given that we now know that the virus can remain suspended in the air for hours and can be transmitted through normal breathing, taxi or rideshare drivers without proper personal protective equipment are susceptible to infection every time they accept a customer.

It may come as no surprise, then — especially because the outbreak began with recent travelers, though is now in the stage of community spread — that a number of taxi and limousine drivers who work out of the Toronto Pearson International Airport have in fact caught and succumbed to the infectious disease.

The union representing the drivers has just revealed that there have been at least four COVID-19 fatalities and 15 infections among its staff, according to CBC news, saying that drivers are "very scared" to continue working.

Because of the pandemic, there has been a drastic decrease in travel and demand for service, and so fewer airport taxis and limos on the road, along with new sanitization measures that have been introduced for those still working.

But, drivers told the news outlet that they want additional protections, like plexiglass shields, PPE and passenger screening for their protection as more taxi and rideshare drivers around the world continue to die after being exposed to the infectious disease on the job.

More than a month ago, the federal government prohibited recent travelers with coronavirus symptoms from taking public transit home from the airport, leaving taxis and limos, ubers and lyfts, or brave family and friends with a car as the only options.

Toronto Public Health recently issued recommendations for taxi and rideshare drivers operating during the pandemic, which included suggestions to "consider installing plexiglass shields" and "consider wearing a non-medical mask," among other advice. Drivers are, at the moment, responsible for their own PPE and personal safety.

by Becky Robertson via blogTO

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