MTA Bus Driver Who Survived COVID-19 ‘Predicts Another Lockdown’ For New York City & Holds President Trump ‘Directly Responsible’ For His Sister’s Death
(QUEENS, NEW YORK) - Come August, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has plans to install protective barriers on buses before resuming front door service and fare collections - Bus Operators, however, remain dubious as COVID-19 continues to gallop across the rest of the country.
Joseph Branch (pictured above) is on the Executive Board of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1056.
For the last 22 years, he’s driven the Q5, Q85, Q17 and Q30 buses in Queens.
Branch grew up in Cambria Heights, where he would sometimes take one of those buses to get to school every day.
Today, he is happy to provide elementary and high school kids with that same service.
Despite his devotion to his job and community, Branch finds the MTA’s August target date for full-service bus rides worrisome.
The 47-year-old has a pre-existing condition and has already survived COVID-19 once.
He’s not so sure he’ll continue to be so lucky.
Two of Branch’s older sisters, as well as an uncle, came down with the Coronavirus at the height of the pandemic.
Only one sibling survived.
Both Branch’s 64-year-old sister and 86-year-old uncle who died suffered with hypertension and diabetes, respectively, and were close to or within the worst bracket for surviving the virus.
Branch’s 61-year-old surviving sibling spent three days on a ventilator.
“Since the pandemic hit, ‘I’ve lost two people.’ I know the people, I’ve watched them grow old, and I know who needs help ‘and I know who has different issues,’” Branch says.
Social distancing guidelines and concerns about possibly further spreading the virus forced Branch and his family to hold a small 15-minute funeral for their deceased loved one.
He was not able to attend his uncle’s funeral in South Carolina, due to his own six-day battle with COVID-19 and travel restrictions placed on New Yorkers in March.
“My sister had pre-existing health issues and my uncle did,” Branch says, “so ‘now, I have to think about these people that I carried previously’ (on the bus). When you see somebody out there (on the bus route), ‘you’re glad because they were able to avoid’ (COVID-19) ‘or make it’ (through). ‘But then you also think about them on the bus - what happens if someone else gets on who is coughing or asymptomatic?’”
The MTA has lost more than 130 Workers since the pandemic first struck.
Branch has even more reason to worry - his son works for New York City Transit as a Motorman.
Like too many other Americans who learned about the Novel Coronavirus after it broke out in China last December - Branch did not take it too seriously because the Trump Administration did not present it as an urgent threat.
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