CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — Coast RTA has begun enforcing a “no mask, no ride” policy on its buses covering routes in Horry and Georgetown counties, and, so far, there have not been any problems with riders, the agency’s general manager said.
People have complied with the mandate and no one has been denied service for not wearing a mask since enforcement was stepped up on Monday, Brian Piascik told members of the board of directors Wednesday afternoon. He said masks are available on the buses for anyone who needs them, and there are signs on all buses to make riders aware of the requirement.
“I always tell people it’s all about protecting yourself,” he said.
Piascik said the decision to begin enforcing the mandate came about partly because some riders have expressed concerns about people not wearing masks. He also noted that federal guidelines still require anyone on a commercial bus to wear a mask.
Coast RTA’s drivers are in favor of the change, he said, adding that they have been instructed to stop their bus and call a supervisor if someone chooses not to comply with the mandate. Other transit agencies in South Carolina are also enforcing the “no mask, no ride” policy, he said.
Board members also discussed the vaccination status of its employees at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting. So far, only 23 of 80 employees have reported being vaccinated. That’s a number Piascik said he would like to see increased.
Board Chairman Darrell Eickhoff said requiring employees to get vaccinated could be problematic and would require conversations with the agency’s lawyers.
“It’s unclear to what extent we can go,” he said. “We know 29% percent of our drivers are vaccinated, but they don’t have to tell us that.”
Personally, Piascik said he favors vaccinations. He said constantly encourages employees to get vaccinated during his interactions with them.
“Everyone needs to get vaccinated,” he said “It’s how we got through smallpox. It’s how we got through polio. The track record of vaccinations in our history is clear.”
Currently, Piascik said Coast RTA is taking several steps to protect its riders, including requiring drivers to wear masks and gloves. In addition, all of the buses have screens and are spray-cleaned on a regular basis, he said.
“We’re doing temperature checks when people report to work,” he said. “If they show any signs of a temperature or fever, we send them home.”
Many businesses and public entities have begun offering incentives to employees to get vaccinated. It’s something Piascik said he would be happy to look into, “but I’m not sure it would work.” Requiring vaccinations would also mean the addition of extensive and costly testing protocol, he said.
In other action:
- Piascik told board members that efforts to acquire property for a new maintenance and operations facility in Fantasy Harbor have ended after the property owner offered to lease the property instead. The agency is now looking at the four other sites that were originally considered and considering some new ones, he said.
- The board elected Dr. Robert Sheehan as its new vice chairman, replacing Dr. Marvin Keene, who will be taking over as chairman in October. Keene replaces Eickhoff, who has served as chairman for the past two years.