Detroit Bus Driver Dies Of COVID-19 After Complaining Of Passenger Coughing On Him. Now Riders Have To Board In The Back

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Written by Ann Brown
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A Detroit bus driver died of COVID-19 days after complaining about a passenger who coughed on him. His video went viral. Now riders have to board in the back. Photo: Facebook

Two weeks ago, a Detroit bus driver went live on Facebook to complain about a passenger on his bus who was coughing without covering her mouth. 

The bus driver, Jason Hargrove, has since died of COVID-19. Four days after his Facebook live posting, Hargrove went into quarantine and then on April 1 he passed away, according to Glenn Tolbert, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26. 

“I’m trying to be the professional they want me to be and I kept my mouth closed, but it’s at some point in time where you got to draw the line and say enough is enough,” Hargrove said in his Facebook video, which went viral. “I feel violated; I feel violated for the folks that were on the bus when this happened. There was about eight or nine people on the bus that stood there as she coughed and never covered up her mouth.”

Hargrove used his video to urge social distancing when on public transportation. He asked passengers to take COVID-19 seriously, Fox 2 News reported.

“This is real. Ya’ll need to take this serious. This is real. I’m out here, we out here, we’re moving the city around back and forth trying to do our jobs and be professional about what we do,” Hargrove said. 

He added: “I ain’t blaming nobody, nobody. Not the city, not the mayor, not the department, not the state of Michigan, not the government, nobody. Not the president – I blame that woman who stood on this (expletive) bus and coughed. It’s her fault. It’s people like her who don’t take this (expletive) for real why this (expletive) is still existing and still spreading.”  

It is not known if Hargrove’s sickness was connected to the female passenger, but it raised major concerns among other bus drivers.

“I just think the protections that have been put in place are inadequate for what’s going on out here,” bus driver Roderick Nash, 47, told USA Today. “In my personal opinion, the mayor and the governor needs to shut everything down for a couple of weeks.” 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan encouraged eerybody in Detroit and the U.S. to watch Hargrove’s Facebook live video. “Because he was infected before we closed the front doors and he tells the story of a passenger getting on the bus and coughing on him, and some of his language is graphic, but I don’t know how you can watch it and not tear up,” Duggan said. “He knew his life was being put in jeopardy — even though he was going to work for the citizens of Detroit every day — by somebody who just didn’t care. Somebody who didn’t take this seriously. And now he’s gone.”

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Duggan said he is taking steps to keep bus drivers safe, especially since March 17 when bus service was totally canceled because of a shortage of drivers. Many drivers called in sick in solidarity, saying Detroit was not doing enough to protect them from the virus.

Following this, Duggan decided to stop collecting fares. He also closed the front doors of the busses and now riders board and deboard from the back doors.

Most recently, Duggan announced additional efforts, including temperature checks for bus drivers and additional housing at hotels for drivers who are quarantined. 

More than 130 drivers are quarantined and that eight have tested positive for COVID-19, the mayor said.

“Every time I see images of a group of people still clustering in this city or this country, I think about the Jason Hargroves on the buses; I think about the cops; I think about the nurses and the doctors in the hospitals who are going to work for you every single day,” Duggan said. “And for you not to honor the social distancing request, you’re putting really good people like Jason Hargroves’ lives on the line. I hope the people of this city and the people of this country will watch his video and listen to his words because it’s the message this country needs to hear.”