Waterbury school bus drivers say still too many COVID-19 safety concerns as school year set to begin

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — A small gathering of Waterbury school bus drivers expressed some big concerns Tuesday as they look ahead to the new school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

They say they don’t feel totally confident getting back behind the wheel when it comes to protecting themselves against the coronavirus this school year.

“I’m scared of catching the COVID,” said school bus driver, Sonya Minnis.

“We’re not safe,” said another bus driver to the group. “We need to get together and decide what we’re going to do for our safety and our life.”

Among their concerns: how to make sure every child is wearing his or her face mask while drivers are behind the wheel keeping their eyes on the road; having to maintain and enforce proper social distancing; and what happens if a child gets sick on the bus.

“And we don’t have a shield or plastic behind us or anything on the side of us,” said Natalie Hernandez, another driver. “We have one mask that’s going to be given to us for two shifts. That’s what we’re going to have to help us through the whole day.”

“I have 50 to 60 kids at one stop,” said Minnis. “Do you know how the buses — the size of the buses — how packed that’s going to be?”

“If we get COVID, two weeks you gotta stay out,” said Hernandez. “You got a cold, a fever, you’re sweating, nope — can’t come to work. And we’re not gonna pay you.”

The school bus drivers all work for Durham School Services — a subsidiary of National Express, which is based in Illinois.

A spokesman for National Express said in a statement to News 8 regarding the bus drivers’ concerns, “We are working lockstep with our customer here in Waterbury and our customers throughout the State of Connecticut. At the direction and guidance of each of our customers, we will ensure that we meet their expectations for COVID-related safety protocols and guidelines which were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by the State of Connecticut. The safety of our passengers and employees has been and always will be our number one priority.”

Waterbury schools start Sept. 8 this year. Some tech schools in the city will start sooner.

The drivers feel it’s time that someone pays attention to them to avoid problems down the road.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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