Omicron impacting CAT services

Similar to what is being experienced by transit agencies across the nation, the increase of COVID-19 infections spurred by the highly contagious omicron variant is impacting Chatham Area Transit’s ability to adequately serve its customers.

As of Jan. 1, about 41 CAT employees had tested positive for the virus and about 21 additional employees were quarantining after being exposed. Currently CAT has 10 employees out for COVID, including nine who are operators. The number of infected and quarantining employees, combined with an ongoing staffing shortage, has resulted in significant disruptions of CAT services in recent weeks. Impacted services include CAT’s fixed-route, paratransit and ferry operations.

While a number of transit agencies have had to reduce their services as a result of omicron’s impact, CAT is continuing to maintain the current service schedule at this time. To counter the absences, operators have been working overtime and supervisors and other CAT employees with commercial driver’s licenses have stepped up to cover for their sick or quarantining colleagues. However, customers should be prepared for unusually long delays due to the current issues resulting from the employee absences. In addition, CAT may need to reduce services in the coming weeks if the COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise.

“We know that the public has had to contend with so many disruptions from the pandemic and we had hoped that we would be at a point where things were starting to improve by now,” said interim CEO Valerie Ragland. “Unfortunately, things are trending the wrong way and we know our customers who depend on our services are once again experiencing hardships as a result. We ask once again for their patience and understanding as we face this ongoing struggle.”

In the meantime, CAT is continuing to attempt to fill operator vacancies through a recruitment campaign. The agency is also continuing to implement safety measures, such as reduced vehicle capacities, a mask mandate and enhanced sanitization of its vehicles and facilities. CAT is also continuing to encourage all employees, as well as customers to get vaccinated. While breakthrough cases do occur, vaccinations have been proven to help prevent severe illness and hospitalization if the individual does catch COVID, including the omicron variant.

About 74 percent of CAT’s workforce is currently vaccinated.

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