Bus driver unfazed by personal risk to coronavirus — but strives to protect others

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“I’m usually not a clean freak,” says Farhan Ahmed, a bus driver and dispatcher for Green Mountain Transit. “But now I am.”

On a personal level, the new coronavirus doesn’t perturb Ahmed, 28. He says his immune system is “off the charts;” he rarely gets sick.

“But this has changed everything,” he explains at the GMT maintenance depot in Burlington between shifts last week, “especially when you’ve got people who are depending on you.”

That list includes his wife, his two sons, aged 3 and 1; his passengers; and his colleagues at work.

Some of the older drivers have opted to take unpaid time off rather than become exposed to what could be a life-threatening illness, says Ahmed, who is also a union shop steward.

The union, with managers, have worked to reduce the risk. Passengers now only enter from the rear door (unless they need a wheelchair lift), and must remain well behind the driver’s seat.

Up-close, when helping passengers in a wheelchair, Ahmed wears a face mask in addition to his thick, wraparound, kayifya-like scarf over his nose and mouth.

Riders who are sick pose additional challenges.

“Sometimes you can’t let them ride, for the safety of others,” Ahmed says. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”

Last week, he had to eject a rider who, after repeated reminders and a visit from a GMT supervisor, refused to cover a worrisome cough.

“We’re thinking about the comfort of our passengers,” Ahmed says. “We’re doing the best we can. It’s not easy.”

Still, he isn’t particularly nervous.

“I am wired differently,” Ahmed says. “I’m an optimistic guy.”

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or joelbaird@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.

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