Para Transpo: The pandemic rolls on but some ignore the signs

Last week, two incidents on Para Transpo involving Covid put at least two passengers at risk.

The first was that one of the drivers wasn’t wearing a mask inside the vehicle, and a passenger was on board.

As I mentioned last week, along with driving, Para Transpo drivers are also responsible for strapping down our mobility devices and sometimes include putting a seat belt or shoulder belt on us. In doing so, the driver needs to get very close to the passenger. Much closer than what’s expected as far as physical distancing goes.

On a typical day, hundreds of trips are taken by people with a wide range of disabilities and various medical conditions. There is a good chance that several of those passengers could be at a greater risk of getting Covid due to their health condition, even if they have received two doses of the vaccine.

For all I know, the driver may have simply forgotten to put their mask back on before they picked up the passenger. There also could be other reasons as well. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. The only reason that I know is that the passenger that was in the vehicle wrote about it on the Para Transpo Group Woes group page on Facebook.

By now, some might think that the passenger could ask the driver to put their mask on, which would hopefully be the end of the conversation. However, some, or perhaps many Para Transpo customers, aren’t verbal or have other barriers to communication. For them, voicing their legitimate concerns isn’t always possible, and even if the passenger can communicate, they may be afraid to do so.

The second incident is a little more complicated.

From my understanding, a Para Transpo driver picked up a passenger. In this case, the driver was wearing a mask. As the driver was driving, a conversation between the driver and passenger started. During this conversation, the driver revealed that he is an anti-vaxxer and believes that this is all a hoax. They refused to get the vaccine.

First, let me just say that I’m all for freedom of speech, making your own choices, and all that. However, when dealing with the public and the safety of others, especially those with disabilities and medical conditions, a line needs to be drawn.

It should be mandatory that anyone who deals with the public as part of their job gets vaccinated. This also includes everyone in the healthcare field. If, for some reason, they’re unable to get vaccinated, they should wear a mask anytime they are working and be regularly tested.

I understand that some may disagree with me, and that’s ok. Allow me to ask you a question, though.

How would you feel if a family member receiving homecare nursing, or were living in a group home, contracted Covid from a nurse or another staff member?

As far as public transportation goes, we’ve all heard about the number of Covid cases at OC Transpo, including Para Transpo.

Speaking of Para Transpo, I’m pleased to report that the passenger involved in the second incident contacted OC Transpo and received a response.

Due to limited space, I’ll share a brief recap.

Whether vaccinated or not, it is important that employees continue to follow local public health advice and public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as:

  • wearing a mask,
  • practicing physical distancing
  • washing hands frequently
  • limiting social contacts
  • isolating when sick; and
  • getting tested immediately if experiencing COVID-like symptoms.

The City continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation in the community and is following all the appropriate guidelines issued by the federal and provincial governments, as well as direction from Ottawa Public Health to develop and maintain a system of controls to keep employees and you safer. 

As for myself, I used Para Transpo twice last week and will continue to do so for appointments and important trips outside of Centretown. However, I will not purchase a monthly Presto Community Press until safety measures improve or the pandemic ends.

Based on what I’ve read and heard, there is still a long way to go before that happens.