ICU nurse says RTS buses are rolling COVID-19 incubators

Kali Blount is a nurse in Gainesville who says too may passengers are ignoring the face mask rule while riding on RTS buses.
Kali Blount is a nurse in Gainesville who says too may passengers are ignoring the face mask rule while riding on RTS buses.

A Gainesville nurse told the City of Gainesville Commission on Thursday that he is more likely to contract COVID-19 while riding on an RTS bus than working at the dedicated COVID-19 unit at UF Health Shands Hospital.

Resident Kali Blount addressed the commission during the public comment session at the end of today’s Regular Meeting. He said as far as he knows, he is the only African American nurse over age 60 working on the dedicated COVID-19 unit.

He rides an RTS bus to work most days and said that for the past nine months, only once has a bus driver commented to a passenger about not wearing a mask and with that the bus driver did get pushback from the passenger.

Each RT bus has signage stating that face masks are required to ride and had masks available for free for anyone needing one.

“The fact that people are non compliant on the bus and the bus keeps rolling is in itself a violation of public health directives,” Blount said.

“With people unmasked on the bus, that bus should pull to the curb, open the doors, and stay there until noses and mouths of anyone over two years old are covered.”

Blount said he brought his concern up to Mayor Lauren Poe in a phone call and later on to the entire commission, but have seen no action taken to improve the situation.

“I’ve seen someone on a phone in the back of the bus talking loud and laughing on the phone without a mask,” Blount told the commission. “I saw another passenger walk to the free mask box and hand the passenger a mask and they refused it.”

Blount said that buses should have a button to push that launches a recording that says the bus will proceed when noses and mouths are covered. “And the driver stays there with the doors open until there is compliance.”

He also suggested a message that announces onboard cameras and drivers are observing passengers for compliance.

Blount referred to RTS uses as, “Rolling incubators picking up potential transmitters all over town.”

The sign on the bus says masks are required, Blount said. But added that there is zero enforcement.

Blount said the lack of face mask wearing and enforcement is a liability for the City of Gainesville.

“If I come down with it, and can prove that I got it on a bus,” Blount said. “I’m going to be litigating this commission.”

The commission plans to further discuss ways to improve mask wearing on the RTS buses at its next general policy committee on Feb. 25.

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