Bus driver who worried early about coronavirus dies of it

Scott Ryan, 41, worked for Community Transit, where nine employees have tested positive.

Scott Ryan was a driver for Community Transit. (GoFundMe)

Scott Ryan was a driver for Community Transit. (GoFundMe)

EVERETT — A Snohomish County bus driver reportedly died Thursday while being treated for COVID-19.

In a Facebook post, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1576 identified the Community Transit employee as Scott Ryan, who lived in Everett and also was a union shop steward. He left behind a wife and three teenage children. He was 41.

“He will be deeply missed and our hearts ache for his family,” union President Kathleen Custer wrote. “Please keep them in your prayers.”

Community Transit spokesperson Nashika Stanbro confirmed Friday that someone with the agency recently died, but she did not say who died or the cause of death.

At least nine employees were presumed positive with the new coronavirus as of Thursday. Eleven more with pending tests had self-quarantined at home.

“We are very disheartened and saddened that several of our employees have become ill from COVID-19 and are working to provide them with the support and resources they need,” Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath said in a Wednesday statement.

Citing health privacy laws, Community Transit has not released more details about ill or potentially ill employees, including which routes or buses they worked on.

This month, the transit authority took extra precautions to safeguard against coronavirus. Buses are disinfected each night; employees must undergo health screenings upon reporting for work; most administrative employees are telecommuting; and social distancing guidelines have been incorporated at the agency’s facilities. The agency also has limited bus entry and exit to the rear doors, and keeps the front 10 feet cleared, except for disabled passengers.

Custer said many of those measures only came after persistent demands from the union to address “common sense concerns.” It got to the point, she said, that the union threatened to direct employees to disobey company policy by not collecting fare and only allowing passengers to board through the back door. That same day, at 5:17 p.m., The Daily Herald received a news release from Community Transit announcing the changes.

Even then, not enough has been done, Custer said. The union wants to see the main operations facility closed down for a deep cleaning and for every driver to be given supplies to protect themselves.

“People are bringing their own supplies from home,” Custer said. “They’re bringing their rubber kitchen gloves.”

Apparently, Community Transit has provided some sanitation kits to drivers, but the union argues they are not sufficient for a full day in the field. A picture posted on Facebook showed a pair of gloves and two packets of alcohol wipes in a plastic baggie.

The union says it is now planning to make its own kits, buying hand sanitizer from local distilleries. They’re also recruiting volunteers to sew face masks and gather items such as gloves and disinfectant.

So far, Community Transit hasn’t signaled it would shut down operations entirely, explaining on its website that public transportation is considered “essential infrastructure.” Unless it receives guidance otherwise, the agency notes, it will stay open as long as possible.

Early on, Ryan worried that drivers would be uniquely exposed to COVID-19. He wrote about the potential dangers in a private Facebook group for bus drivers on Feb. 28 — the first time in a month that new coronavirus cases had been reported in Washington.

“Our buses under ‘normal’ circumstances are germ tubes on wheels,” Ryan wrote. “Now we introduce a disease that zero people have been vaccinated for and has an incubation date of up to 14 days without showing symptoms … My personal thought? We are high risk ticking time bombs for being exposed to someone with it.”

The next day, the first coronavirus-related death was reported in the U.S. — at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland — and Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency.

On Thursday, Community Transit announced a 25% reduction in service, pointing to reduced ridership and available workforce. Details about those schedule changes, taking effect Monday, can be found online.

The number of people boarding is down 66% from pre-pandemic times, according to Community Transit.

Since news of Ryan’s death has spread, Custer said, she’s heard anecdotally of drivers staying home.

“They just thought, this is the reality right here, they’re not going to risk themselves out there,” she said. “No amount of money is worth it.”

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Clean fuels and police tactics advance, drug law fix arrives

Here’s what’s happening on Day 50 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

A driver struck a woman in a motorized wheelchair Saturday in Lynnwood. (Lynnwood police)
Woman on wheelchair hit by car in Lynnwood, seriously hurt

The woman was on a sidewalk, passing by a drive-thru in Lynnwood, when a driver pulled out and hit her.

State Patrol worker from Everett charged with attempted child rape

Trevor Smith worked as a commercial vehicle enforcement officer assigned inspecting school buses.

Amy Perusse, who has worked as the Everett School District's Kids in Transition coordinator for seven years, has been recognized by Education Week as one of 11 "Leaders to Learn From." (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Quite an honor’ for district’s champion of homeless students

Once a teen mom, Everett’s Kids in Transition coordinator wins national recognition by Education Week.

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2021, file photo, the Legislative Building is shown partially shrouded in fog at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Washington state's richest residents, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, would pay a wealth tax on certain financial assets worth more than $1 billion under a proposed bill whose sponsor says she is seeking a fair and equitable tax code. Under the bill, starting Jan. 1, 2022, for taxes due in 2023, a 1% tax would be levied not on income, but on "extraordinary" assets ranging from cash, publicly traded options, futures contracts, and stocks and bonds. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Federal package could drive more than $10B to Washington

The state would get $7.6B for COVID response, schools and child care. Snohomish County is in line for $160M.

A barge worker hauls in an oil boom before heading off with the remains of the Mukilteo Ferry Dock ramp and pier on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 in Mukilteo, Washington. With the new dock in operation, all that is left is to tear down the old ticket building. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Old Mukilteo ferry dock afloat on the barge of ‘Lincoln Logs’

The haul included 213 wood pilings, 15 concrete pilings, 47 steel pilings and a “Speed Limit 15” sign.

Samantha Lake
Missing girl, 12, found safely

Seattle FBI located Samantha Lake on Friday.

Jeanette Ho Shin Weddell, 96, died of COVID-19 on Dec. 29, 2020. (Contributed photo)
Marysville grandmother, 96, was one in half a million lost

In a week when the president took time to mourn COVID deaths, local families were grieving, too.

Maryville Getchell High School students Madison Dawson, left, Kaden Vongsa and Jenasis Lee, who made a presentation to their school board discussing mental health, lack of resources and personal stories of their peers mental health struggles. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Students to school board: We need more mental health help

Three Marysville Getchell seniors want mental health counselors and better training for staff.

Most Read