'This Is A Devastating Day': 5 More MTA Employees Die From Coronavirus Complications

Steve Burns
March 30, 2020 - 3:19 pm

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The MTA confirmed Monday that five more employees have died due to complications from COVID-19. 

"This is a devastating day," NYCT Interim President Sarah Feinberg told WCBS 880.

The employees were identified as Scott Elijah, a 15-year track worker with the Combined Action/Emergency Response Unit based in Long Island City; Caridad Santiago,a cleaner for 13 years assigned to the Stations Department in the Bronx; Ernesto Hernandez, a bus operator for 15 years most recently working out of the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot; Victor Zapana, a supervisor in the Stations Department who worked from various locations throughout the subway system for almost 30 years; and Warren Tucker, a bus mechanic for almost five years at the MTA Bus Company, assigned this year to the Central Maintenance Facility in East New York.

“We are heartbroken at the passing of five heroic members of the New York City Transit family. Scott, Caridad, Ernesto, Victor and Warren were all inspiring and valued colleagues, well-loved and well-respected by their co-workers," Feinberg and Acting MTA Bus Company President Craig Cipriano said in a joint statement. "They dedicated their lives to serving the public and keeping New Yorkers moving. This is a tragic loss for the city. Their families and friends are in our prayers during this incredibly difficult and painful time.”

Last week, two transit workers passed away due to coronavirus and a third died trying to evacuate a train that was on fire in Harlem.

"Our members are wearing down," Tony Utano, the head of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, told WCBS 880's Steve Burns. "It's just a sad time."

Utano says all he can tell his members is to be strong and be safe.

"It's hard to give a 'rah rah' speech with what's going on here. There's no 'rah rah' speech," Utano said.

Adding to the stress Utano says is the MTA's 24-hour hotline for reporting coronavirus symptoms keeps crashing.

"People wait on the line 10 hours and we couldn't get through," Utano said. "That is definitely a big issue."

More than 150 MTA workers have tested positive including chairman and CEO Pat Foye, and Feinberg said thousands of others are on quarantine which has forced the MTA to socale back service because they don't have sufficient crews to run the kind of service commuters are used to.

"For now we are providing the best service we can with the crews that we have," Feinberg said. "We're running the best that we can right now, but it's not great and it's not what people are used to."

Some concerns have been raised over social distancing as trains get more crowded and Feingberg said the NYPD and MTA Police are out in force to address the crowding issues, which she said appear to be sporadic.

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