New York, NY – On Wednesday, April 15th, the MTA announced that it will be partnering with Northwell Health to provide priority testing to transit workers who have COVID-19 symptoms. About 50 tests per day, or 350 per week will be administered. This is similar to the partnership the organization has with the NYPD and FDNY, which was just announced. The testing will begin Friday, April 17th.
TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano said, “On one hand it’s good news. Transit workers, police officers and other essential workers need and deserve expedited testing. But on the other hand, it required a lot of agitation and advocacy by workers and unions like TWU Local 100 to make it happen. Why the wealthiest country in the world couldn’t quickly get the necessary testing is something someone will have to answer to at some point.”
Over 2,200 MTA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 59 have died.
The MTA has identified around 400 workers who have identified themselves as symptomatic, and, starting Friday, those workers will be directed to visit one of the health care provider’s 52 urgent care clinics in the New York City area for a coronavirus test.
John Chiarello, Vice President of Maintance of Way, who oversees 9,000 workers in all maintenance titles in the subways, such as track workers, signal maintainers, structural maintainers, and those who work in plumbing, ventilation, draining, and electrical wiring, said, “I’ve lost a dozen in my department, and we just lost two more. [The coronavirus] is terrible for the City, for everyone. There’s no discriminating.” About the testing, he said, “I think it’s a good thing. I know police officers and fire fighters got it before us. If people have the symptoms, the tests will put a lot of peoples’ minds at ease. [Before the new testing program], I had one of my officers who had symptoms, but he was able to get a test and he was negative. Instead of guessing and hoping, you know. It’s very good for the members, it gives them and their families peace of mind.”
His crew is working in staggered shifting – one week on, one week off, “so if one place gets hit really hard, we have the ability to employ workers where it’s needed. It’s part of social distancing within the working ranks.”
Speaking on another recent initiative, wherein those that died due to COVID-19 will get special death benefits, he added, “I’d like to thank our President Tony Utano and our International President John Samuelsen for getting the 500k line-of-duty death benefit. That is unbelievably crucial for families. God forbid they should get this and die, at least they can go with confidence that they have something left behind for their families. That was a big thing for the labor movement, both for the Local and the International.”