City bus drivers frustrated over lack of mask enforcement

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Fear and frustration for city bus drivers as COVID-19 cases continue to surge on Oahu.

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Their union said that more passengers are refusing to wear a mask, and drivers can’t do much about it.

Bus drivers pointed out that the mayor and the police chief said that officers will strictly enforce the latest restrictions, which include wearing a mask in public. But on the bus, drivers said mask enforcement is nearly impossible and it’s a growing problem.

“It’s happening quite often on all the routes, both in the city and the countryside. So operators complain about it everyday,” said Hawaii Teamsters President Wayne Kaululaau.

The simple solution would be to just kick the passenger off the bus, but Kaululaau said that’s against city policy. So instead, drivers have to call central control at the bus station, which then decides if police should be called.

“It becomes a question of liability and what not if the drivers start to enforce the law themselves on the bus. So that’s why only the police can make those enforcements,” said Kaululaau.

But waiting for police means stopping the bus and waiting for officers to arrive. Drivers said that could take a while, so central control decides against it. With crowded buses and the impossibility of maintaining physical distance, drivers are scared for themselves and other passengers.

The union said the city has been working with the state health department to come up with a solution.

The city sent KHON2 a statement that wrote, “The Department of Transportation Services is working on a revised face-covering policy which balances accessibility to our transportation services while promoting a safer environment for riders during the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect to have more information on implementation early next week.”

The union said that it raised the problem to the city nearly two weeks ago, and drivers are losing their patience. With the number of daily cases not showing any sign of coming down, the union said a solution is needed now.

“The city has got to do something and the corporation counsel has to do something, cause they’re the ones who interpret the law and they’re the ones who hinder the process every time,” said Kaululaau.

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