RICHMOND, Va. - Two Richmond-area Greyhound employees have died from complications related to COVID-19 contracted at a driver training school in New Jersey, according to the president of the union that represents Greyhound drivers.
Greyhound confirmed two of their employees passed away after contracting coronavirus, and that grief counseling was available to employees.
“ATU is sad to report the death of another member from COVID-19. Brother Phillip Deberry, a Local 1700 member since 1974, was a Greyhound bus driver and instructor in Richmond, VIrginia,” the Amalgamated Transit Union wrote on Facebook Sunday. “Brother Deberry was a ‘hero.’”
Karen Miller, president of Local 1700, said she knew and worked with both victims.
“Wonderful, would do anything for anybody,” Miller said of Deberry. “A very, very, very nice man. He was very good at instructing.”
Both men, Miller said, recently attended a driver training school at a hotel in Atlantic City. Multiple instructors and students contracted COVID-19 as a result of an outbreak at that hotel, Miller said.
New Jersey is considered a hot spot for coronavirus in the U.S. because of the number of confirmed cases and its proximity to New York.
Deberry and the other employee were no longer driving buses.
“They were permanent instructors, so they weren’t still driving the bus," Miller said. "They taught pretty much year round in the school, so when they left, they didn’t have any contact that I’m aware of with the locations.”
After receiving multiple tips from current Greyhound employees in the Richmond area, the company sent CBS 6 the following statement:
“We are sad to inform you we lost two beloved members of our Greyhound family due to complications from COVID-19. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family members and friends. We are heartbroken and shaken by this tragedy and we are communicating with their families to offer assistance during this difficult time. We also have grief counseling available to assist our team members in processing this shocking news. Out of privacy for their families, we cannot share the identity of the employees.”
News of the deaths comes one week after a CBS 6 investigation into claims from local Greyhound employees that the Richmond terminal was not being cleaned and sanitized properly. Several employees said that passenger limits to promote social distancing were also not being enforced properly. And multiple employees said hand sanitizer and face masks were not available for staff.
Worker we spoke with also raised red flags about passengers from New York not being check for COVID-19 symptoms. One day after our original report, Governor Ralph Northam told CBS 6 that anyone who arrives in Virginia from New York should self isolate for two weeks.
Last week, Greyhound sent CBS 6 the following statement:
“We continue to work closely with our teams at our owned terminals and outside agencies working on our behalf, like Richmond, to ensure the enhanced proper sanitation procedures are being followed in accordance with our coronavirus protocol, which includes:
- Increased cleaning efforts surrounding our most frequently used areas including restrooms, door handles and counters.
- Increased cleaning in more areas, more frequently, at our terminals.
- Requiring employees sign a thorough checklist of sanitized objects and areas after the conclusion of each shift.
- Equipping maintenance staff with supplies for routine, post trip sanitation of buses
Our team members and cleaning agencies are thoroughly trained in sanitation procedures, with a specific emphasis on coronavirus preparedness. They have each been provided with an abundance of supplies for properly disinfecting and sanitizing employee and customer areas. We will continue enforcing proper cleaning protocols as recommended by the CDC throughout all our locations."
“We understand the that medical field, the medical industry will be the first one to get the masks. Hand sanitizer, we had that initially, but you can’t, everything is on back order, but as manufacturers being to manufacture the masks, they should be made available,” Miller said. “In some of the buses, the passengers are even taking the hand sanitizers out of the restrooms on the buses, so it’s just bad all the way around.”
Miller said the company appears to be taking the virus seriously by instituting policy, but she said recent staffing cuts are leading to inconsistencies across the country.
“I don’t think enough people are taking this seriously, and that in itself is a problem,” Miller said. “Somebody is waiting on us to come back home, and the customers on the bus are equally as important because someone is waiting on them at the end of their trip. So, we have to have consistency there.”
A spokesperson for Greyhound said over email they were working with team member to gather further information about the two Richmond area employees who passed away.
On Tuesday night, Greyhound shared the following statement with CBS 6:
"We are sad to confirm the passing of two beloved members of our Greyhound family due to COVID-19 complications. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family members and friends. We are heartbroken and shaken by this tragedy and we have communicated with their families to offer assistance during this difficult time. We also have grief counseling available to assist our team members in processing this shocking news. Both will be missed dearly and made a tremendous impact on those who knew them and our business. For the privacy of their families, we are not releasing their names at this time."
Greyhound also confirmed that both employees took part in an out of town, routine training which ended early due to COVID-19 concerns.
"The course ended early due to COVID-19 precautions and prior to becoming aware that they were impacted. Participants in the training did not complete the course and have not driven any buses for Greyhound," the statement said.
The first two COVID-19 related deaths of Richmond residents have been confirmed, according to the office of mayor Levar Stoney.
Both patients were men in their 70s and died while hospitalized. Both suffered from underlying, chronic conditions
According to the Richmond City Health Department, both men were known to have recently spent time working in New Jersey.
The Richmond City Health District is in communication with state health authorities and is conducting an investigation to determine those who may have come into contact with the men.
“Every loss we experience at the hands of this disease is tragic,” said Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City and Henrico Health Districts. "I hope this news gives our community even more resolve to stay home, strictly follow the isolation and quarantine guidelines, and to limit our physical interactions with others.”
For more information on the city’s response to COVID-19, visit www.richmondgov.com/covid19 [richmondgov.com].