A King County Metro bus driver has died from complications of COVID-19, according to the agency.
The driver, 59-year-old Samina Hameed, died Thursday evening at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, Metro told drivers in a poster placed at some transit bases.
“With this news, we encounter the grief and pain of loss so many have tragically experienced during this pandemic,” Metro General Manager Rob Gannon said in a separate message to employees.
Hameed had been employed by Metro since 2017 and worked out of Bellevue Base and East Base, Gannon’s message said. Her husband is also a Metro operator and the couple have three children and a daughter-in-law.
An operations bulletin Tim Flanagan, director of bus operations, sent to Metro employees on Saturday said Hameed was known “for her friendly, upbeat attitude and helpful and caring disposition.”
The bulletin said the agency was putting up a memorial board and flowers for Hameed at the Bellevue and East bases, where co-workers can share memories and pass along condolences to her family.
In a statement to The Seattle Times, Metro declined to share additional details but said the agency is “deeply saddened by the passing of one of our employees.”
“The family has requested that we respect their privacy and not provide additional information externally at this time,” Metro said. “Metro and our entire community are deeply thankful for their service. Our thoughts are with their family, friends and colleagues, as we look to do everything we can to support them.”
Hameed is the first Metro bus driver to die amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Scott Ryan, a Community Transit bus driver in Snohomish County, died last month after contracting the virus.
While many people are staying home and working remotely, transit is deemed an essential service, and Metro has called its drivers among the “first responders” to the coronavirus pandemic.
In an employee bulletin last month, Gannon said Metro drivers who have been exposed to COVID-19, but have not shown symptoms, were expected to continue to report to work. However, the bulletin said people in high-risk categories, such as those older than 60 or with underlying medical conditions, should stay home even if they have no symptoms.
Drivers have pushed Metro to take more safety precautions, and a union leader this month said drivers “are out there feeling a little scared, and afraid, out there by themselves.”
While bus ridership has plummeted during Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, buses remain running to transport essential workers, including nurses and other health care workers. Some Metro drivers and passengers have expressed concerns about people experiencing homelessness and other “non-destination riders,” as well as with crowding at transit stops and on buses making it difficult to maintain social distancing of 6 feet.
Starting Monday, transit security staff will monitor coaches and terminals where such problems are happening, Metro spokeswoman Torie Rynning wrote in a blog post Friday.
“At this time, Metro is for essential travel only. This means first-responders, medical personnel, other essential workers, and people who rely on Metro for access to food, medicine, and similarly essential needs. If you must ride, all passengers are expected to use social distancing measures by keeping six feet of space from other riders and Metro employees,” Rynning wrote.
She added: “Transit security staff will intervene if a rider is not following public health guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19, or if a rider is behaving in a manner that jeopardizes the safety of riders or the operator.”