NJ Transit loses employee to COVID outbreak

As the omicron COVID-19 variant skyrockets positive cases in the state, the coronavirus outbreak has claimed the life of another NJ Transit employee.

Velma Morton, 61, of Morrisville, Pa., Who worked for NJ Transit for almost 19 years, died of complications from the coronavirus, Kevin Corbett, CEO and Chairman of NJ Transit, said at the board meeting of agency administration Monday.

Morton has worked as a car appearance maintenance attendant in rail operations at various locations including Trenton, New Brunswick’s County Yard, Long Branch and New York Penn Station, he said. She worked the last 14 years of her career at the NJ Transit rail facility in Morrisville, PA.

He congratulated her on her work as a long-time member of the NJ Transit family. She is the 24th employee whose life was taken by the pandemic.

His death comes as NJ Transit has also seen an increase in the number of employees testing positive for COVID-19, up to 797 from 85 who tested positive in December, he said.

This spike led to the cancellation of trains, buses and light rail. However, employees still provided 98% of regular train service and 94% of bus lines, despite the COVID outbreak, Corbett said.

Having a full roster of engineers and the continued hiring of bus drivers, as well as employees who worked overtime to cover absences, helped prevent cancellations from being worse, he said. -he declares.

“All of the hires we did on the bus and train side were critical,” Corbett said. “I wouldn’t want to think about the cancellations we would have if we had the numbers we did in 2018.”

This reflects peaks in positive cases reported statewide, which surpassed 21,000 new cases on Sunday.

The COVID outbreak also took away some of the ridership gains made by NJ Transit through 2021.

Rail ridership fell from 55% of pre-COVID ridership to 35% and reduced weekend rail ridership which had reached 80% of pre-COVID numbers, Corbett said. This attendance fell to 40% to 50% of pre-covid levels.

Interstate and interstate bus ridership also plunged from 70% to 50% of pre-Covid ridership, he said. Only the light rail seemed immune to the trend, with ridership remaining stable at 70% of pre-coronavirus levels, Corbett said.

That filing started around December 23 and continued on New Years Day, Corbett said.

“We saw it fall from the 23rd to New Years Eve,” he said. “We were in a bit of a rush after midnight, but the number for New Years Eve and New Years was lower than we expected.”

NJ Transit joins airlines that have canceled flights over the Christmas holidays due to a staff shortage blamed on the Omicron push. The New York City subway system suspended some lines and provided less frequent service on others as the ranks of workers were wiped out by positive test results. PATH also reported problems due to staff shortages last week.

State Motor Vehicle Commission agencies have also been affected by workers who tested positive, with 10 agencies unable to serve walk-in customers on Monday and another closed, according to MVC’s website.

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Larry Higgs can be reached at [email protected].

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