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COVID-19 wave hits Spokane Public Schools bus drivers

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 23, 2021

Cindi Miraglia, Durham School services bus driver, puts chains on bus wheels to make it up the icy hill on 37th Avenue at Havana Street after an overnight snowfall on Dec. 11, 2019, in Spokane.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
Cindi Miraglia, Durham School services bus driver, puts chains on bus wheels to make it up the icy hill on 37th Avenue at Havana Street after an overnight snowfall on Dec. 11, 2019, in Spokane. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

A coronavirus outbreak has hit some school bus drivers in Spokane.

Thirty-six employees at the local branch of Durham School Services, which serves Spokane Public Schools, have either tested positive recently or are awaiting a test, the company confirmed Tuesday. Some are bus drivers.

The office has 180 workers at its Spokane location, which means that 1 in 5 is affected.

That in turn could affect some routes, even as Spokane Public Schools prepares to return secondary students to schools beginning next week.

Eighteen employees are “out of service” after testing positive and the other 18 are awaiting tests.

“This has temporarily affected our routes due to the circumstances of some of our drivers being affected by the coronavirus,” Ed Flavin, a spokesperson at Durham’s national headquarters in Illinois, said Tuesday in a statement.

“We currently have some substitute drivers who will be running these routes,” Flavin said. “We will be working with Spokane Public Schools to ensure that we work lockstep to minimize delays with our affected routes.”

However, Flavin said the company could not determine when any of the affected workers first tested positive or when the most recent positive tests were received.

Moreover, Durham couldn’t rule out that some drivers may have had the virus while they transported children.

“It’s a very fluid situation,” Flavin said.

However, Flavin said that so far, all positive tests have been determined to have originated outside the workplace.

Affected employees will not return to work until they are cleared to return from their health care professional, Flavin said.

The district confirmed on Tuesday that Durham reported the positive cases.

“At this time, there are no indications that transmission occurred on school buses,” district spokesperson Sandra Jarrard said in a statement.

“SPS is continuing to work with the Spokane Regional Health District on contact tracing within our district and will provide updates to SPS families as soon as they become available,” Jarrard said.

Flavin said the company enforces a “stringent set of COVID guidelines and protocols that all of our employees must follow.”

“To help keep our employees and passengers safe, we screen our employees daily for COVID-19 symptoms or fever and do not allow them to work if either exists, require employees to wear facemasks, follow a strict work area and vehicle disinfecting regime, and practice social distancing aligned with our COVID prevention plan,” the statement said.

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