SEPTA says 2 employees may have coronavirus from customer contact

UPDATED: 1:54 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — SEPTA is reporting two of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, believed to have been spread by contact with customers. More than a dozen employees report they've contracted the respiratory illness as of Tuesday afternoon, and managers concede that number is likely to grow.

The transit agency says it is ramping up measures to protect workers and riders.

SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards wouldn't address those two specific cases or say where the exposure took place.

Richards says they are doing what they can to reduce potential exposure.

She says barriers already are in place on buses, the regional rails and subways, but not on trolleys. But that is changing by the end of the week, she says, as newly-manufactured enclosures are being installed to protect those operators.

She says SEPTA is also looking at fixed facilities, where it might install barriers to protect more employees.

As to guidance for riders, she said social distancing is paramount, and SEPTA is trying to enforce it.

"We are putting other vehicles out. We've tried a variety of things, including stopping service at certain times, skipping stops."

Richards concedes more service adjustments are coming, but she is adamant that there will no suspension of SEPTA service, because it is a critical mode of transportation for many who are still working in essential businesses like hospitals and grocery stores.

"We truly need everybody to only ride our system if they have an essential trip. We know that we are vital particularly in getting health care workers to their work and grocery store clerks, especially those who are helping with inventory and helping with cashier duties," she said.

Richards say management isn't ruling out employee pay cuts or even layoffs to slow the financial losses the transit agency is suffering.