The Ebola Hoax
After the frightening events from yesterday involving a potential Ebola Hoax, we want to reassure our membership that we are and have been on top of the situation from the beginning. We will keep you informed as the events and news unfolds. Here is what we know.
At approximately 1:45 pm yesterday, a man and a female companion entered an LA Metro Bus. The man was wearing a surgical mask and the woman was not. As the man entered the bus he told the operator, “Don’t mess with me. I have Ebola.” The man and his companion then sat down without paying the fare. The operator called into the BOC to inform them of the situation and the operator was told to continue operating the vehicle. The BOC then placed a call to LA County Sheriffs. The man in the mask rode the bus for about 7 minutes before exiting the bus with his companion. Before leaving the bus, the man removed his mask and threw it on a rear seat of the bus. Contrary to unconfirmed rumors from sources who would have no way of knowing what actually occurred, there was no report that anyone was spit on or that any bodily fluid was passed from the man claiming to have Ebola to anyone else on the bus to include the operator. LA County Sheriff’s Department later instructed the operator to stop the vehicle and move the passengers to a trailing bus. The operator was then instructed to drive the bus to Division 10 and to await further instruction.
MTA staff informed Union officials of the situation and Local Chairperson Lisa Arredondo-Smith was dispatched to the scene. Once at Division 10 the operator was “quarantined” in the bus for several hours while LA County and MTA officials determined what to do. After several hours in “quarantine” the operator was given the option to be released but it was highly recommended that the operator go to the hospital. MTA staff took the operator to the hospital and was evaluated for a few hours. The operator was cleared from the hospital and Chairperson Arredondo-Smith took the operator home.
After a hazmat Team was able to clear the vehicle, the MTA was able to download the video from the vehicle to review and share with law enforcement. The Union has demanded and the MTA intends to find this individual and to prosecute him to the furthest extent of the law. The Union, MTA and law enforcement see this as a terrorist threat and intend to pursue this individual as a terrorist. As was negotiated in our new contract, the MTA will have unlimited viewing rights of this video. This is necessary so that MTA and Law Enforcement officials can view the entirety of the incident. It may also be necessary to track down witnesses or any passengers that may have come in contact with the man in the mask. This policy is in place to protect operators as well as the public.
It is believed that this is merely a hoax. For one, if the man actually had Ebola, the only way he would know is if he was informed by a medical doctor. There is not a doctor in the world, at this point, who would diagnosed a person with Ebola and allow them to walk out the door. Second the female companion he was with was not wearing a mask and did not appear to fear contracting Ebola. It is believed by the MTA and Law Enforcement that this man is a transient who frequents the bus system and was using fear of Ebola to evade paying the fare. It is furthered believed that this man will probably be back on the same bus soon and that when he returns, he will be caught.
Whether a hoax or not the Union believes that mistakes were made in the protection of the operator and the passengers and we are demanding answers and action. The first thing that happened is that operators will be allowed to wear masks and gloves if they so desire. At this point we are not sure if this is a temporary or a permanent policy. Next the MTA did not appear to have adequate staff or procedures in place in order to protect the operators or the public in a crisis like this. The union will be demanding action on this issue. The Union will be demanding to take part in the drafting of new procedures and training for the operators in regards to dealing with not just Ebola but other highly infectious diseases. Furthermore the Union will be demanding that the MTA create a single task force, with Union participation, designed to create policy and procedures dedicated to operator safety and protection.
In the days to come the Union will be demanding meetings with MTA staff and Board Members to include county supervisors and Mayor Garcetti to discuss this incident and the MTA response. The union will report back on the progress and result of those meetings.