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Rapid testing set up at Calgary Transit yard after COVID-19 variant case detected

Calgary Transit confirmed one recent variant case of COVID-19 in their admin building, but the transit union said there have been 13 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks.

Now, rapid testing has been set up at the Calgary Transit Spring Garden location in the northeast as a precautionary measure.

This news comes as Alberta announced another 1,345 cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. Of those, 816 were variants of concern, the province said.

According to Stephen Tauro with Calgary Transit, the one new case was detected at the Calgary Transit administration building. It was in the director’s office and there were two close contacts to the case.

Both of those close contacts have tested negative for COVID-19. The person who tested positive is at home recovering.

Tauro said they’d invited Alberta Health Services to the site for rapid testing of employees over the next three days.

“Out of an abundance of caution and really to help ease employee comfort, a little bit, because you can’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing COVID news so it’s really to bring some comfort to our employees,” he said.

The testing isn’t mandatory, Tauro said.  

Mike Mahar, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583, representing Calgary Transit workers, said he’s been pressing for the rapid testing to rotate to the various transit properties.

Mahar said when asked directly by workers, he’s encouraging them to get the rapid test done.

“It’s a benefit to them; if they’re exposed, the sooner they know this, the more they can protect their family and everybody else,” he told LiveWire Calgary.

Later this week, the transit unions across the country will call for action on prioritizing vaccines for transit workers.

Transit squeeze with route reductions

Mahar said COVID-19 infection among transit workers has been tracking like that of the general population. That includes the number of variant cases.

In the past two weeks (going back to April 5), Mahar said they’ve had 13 cases of COVID-19 reported among workers.

Mahar said the continued service reductions is an overly cautious approach by Calgary Transit.  He said it’s to everyone’s detriment.

If you cut service it has a negative impact on ridership, he said. While he understands it’s a pandemic, it’s a vicious circle where if you don’t offer enough ridership it drives people away from the service.

But, during a pandemic, it’s put pressure on the buses that are in service.

“Before you know it, you’ve got multiple buses being overcrowded and people working overtime and that hasn’t changed,” he said.

Overcrowding is happening in industrial area routes, but prior to schools closing, there was considerable space crunch on school routes.

“You really do have to wonder how much of that was transmitted on the buses, as opposed to in the school where they have at least some level of air conditioning and some social distancing and some sanitary practices,” he said.

“Forty-five minutes on the bus with everybody literally shoulder-to-shoulder and their backpacks are all banging into each other. That’s probably been, at least in part, why students have had outbreaks in the schools.”