Union: 20+ MVA employees test COVID positive within 2 weeks

Posted at 5:11 PM, Oct 29, 2020

BALTIMORE — COVID-19 case numbers are rising once again in Maryland and the MVA is dealing with it too, with more than 20 employees testing positive, so now their union is demanding action for safety.

"The conditions that we work in are horrifying," said Mildred Womble, a Glen Burnie MVA employee.

"It’s a lot of anger. It’s frustration. It's fear," said Kim Henson, another Glen Burnie employee.

Henson said she contracted COVID at work last week and has been quarantining ever since.

There have been at least 21 cases reported to the union within the last 2 weeks, including 10 at the MVA facility in Glen Burnie and 5 in Baltimore City, and one state employee from the Largo facility died.

AFSCME held a virtual press conference today, demanding action to stop outbreaks and ensure public safety.

"We want proper safety measures put in place," said Womble.

AFSCME is asking Gov. Larry Hogan and MDOT take immediate action to shut down and disinfect MVA facilities using a licensed cleaning company. The MDOT MVA said in a statement they perform daily cleanings and deep cleans when a case is suspected or confirmed.

"I don’t believe it’s a legitimate cleaning whereby they would wear the proper gear and sanitize the way that the MVA should be sanitized," said Henson.

Employees also want capacity to be limited to 50 percent when reopening, as well as increased transparency about the outbreaks. Henson said she found out about a potential exposure through a coworker instead of management.

"It’s just a lot of hush hush. I’m not asking for any names to be divulged but I certainly would want to know that there are others around me that have been sick with COVID," said Henson.

The MVA said they post notifications of COVID-19 cases in accessible working areas, like break rooms, to alert employees.

Because of her experiences, Henson said she does not want to go back to work when her two-week quarantine is up.

"I haven't even been released to go back to work but what about when I do go back, how do I know that I'm not going to get infected again?" said Henson.

The MVA said safety precautions, including appointment requirements, plexiglass dividers, mandatory face coverings and temperature screenings will stay in place until further notice.

The health and well-being of the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) employees and its customers are our top priority. In order to protect employees and staff, daily cleanings are performed each day at branch offices statewide. When an employee is either suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, a deep clean is performed in addition to the daily cleanings. A subsequent deep cleaning follows any confirmation of a positive test. Before reopening in June, each of MDOT MVA’s contracted janitorial companies confirmed with MDOT MVA that they are in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and standards, and that the janitorial supplies being utilized in each MDOT MVA facility are consistent with national health recommendations.

When an employee reports that they are experiencing symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, our human resources (HR) team reaches out to obtain information about the employee’s positive test and/or symptoms, and to discuss if they have had contact with other employees. If they have had contact with other employees, HR contacts those team members to discuss their use of PPE and potential contact, without disclosing the impacted employee’s name, and instructs them on the appropriate actions to take. The local health departments in each region handle all community contact tracing efforts. As of Monday, October 26, notifications of a positive COVID-19 case are posted in an area that is accessible to the employees working in that area, for example a branch break room at a local branch office. Employees are not currently being shifted between MDOT MVA branches.

Since reopening in June, by appointment only, MDOT MVA has made operational changes statewide to limit foot traffic in employee areas and provide safe barriers between customers and staff. Upon returning to work, each employee was provided with a safety kit, which includes hand sanitizer, alcohol-based wipes, masks, gloves and pertinent information outlining CDC guidelines. Additionally, safety kits have remained available and frequent messages are sent to employees encouraging them to ask for any of the safety equipment that they need. MDOT MVA safety measures - including appointment requirements, plexiglass dividers, temperature screening, social distancing markers and mandatory face coverings - will stay in place until further notice.

MDOT MVA has coordinated with the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), and MDH has confirmed that MDOT MVA has taken all steps needed to proactively mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19. The health and safety of our staff and customers will continue to be our main focus as we navigate this pandemic. MDOT MVA will continue to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the union.

According to MDOT, all MDOT MVA branch offices and Glen Burnie headquarters will undergo a deep cleaning on on Tuesday, November 3, while they are closed for Election Day.

Gov. Hogan's office did not return our request for a comment.