Frontline public transit workers lining up to get COVID-19 vaccine

Since January 2020, Metrolinx has kept the public updated on the actions to limit the spread of the virus including any new efforts implemented to keep everyone safe and been transparent about the number of staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Although vaccination rates are increasing and virus levels decreasing, health officials say hospitalization levels are still at concerning levels.

To ensure progress continues and there is more time to get more needles into arms, public health officials extended the stay-at-home order to June 2.

This week also saw more essential workers eligible for vaccination – including public transit staff working in GO and UP Stations, crews operating and maintaining buses and trains, staff in the control room, and crews building new transit projects.

“Along with all of the dozens of safety actions already in place, vaccination is a key part to recovery,” said Martin Gallagher, Metrolinx Chief Safety Officer.

“It is critically important that we build the confidence of our customers as they gradually return to public transit,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher says that while the pandemic controls put in place over the last year have helped keep staff and customers safe, the primary goal of a vaccine program is to immunize the majority of the population so that COVID-19 can no longer spread.  

A worker cleans on the UP platform.
Barbara Verge wipes down a handrail inside the UP Express terminal inside Union Station. This past summer, Metrolinx moved station ambassadors out from behind the ticket window to help keep stations clean by frequently wiping down high-traffic touch points, including door handles, handrails, fare devices and countertops. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

“The sooner the majority of Ontarians, including essential workers are vaccinated, the sooner public transit can return to normal,“ he said.

Many Metrolinx staff have jumped at the chance to roll up their sleeve and to encourage their colleagues. Gallagher says lots of Metrolinx staff have been sharing their vaccination stories with each other.

Metrolinx says their leadership will continue to support and educate, as well as monitor uptake of staff who are taking advantage of the expanded eligibility. Staff will also be provided three hours of paid time off to get vaccinated.  

This week, Metrolinx had 11 additional staff across a variety of work locations in the GTHA test positive for COVID-19.

The total number of Metrolinx staff testing positive is now 153 out of over 4,500 employees – just over 3% of the workforce. Of the total number of Metrolinx staff who tested positive, more than 90% contracted the virus outside the workplace.

Stay safe and focused on the basics from public health:

  • Stay home if ill or potentially exposed to COVID-19; get tested if experiencing symptoms.
  • Travel only for essential purposes during the stay-at-home order.
  • Consider getting vaccinated. Check your eligibility
  • Even if vaccinated, continue to wear a face covering.
  • Wash hands regularly, use hand sanitizer and keep a safe distance from others.
  • Download the COVID Alert App.

Story by Anne Marie Aikins, Metrolinx senior manager of media