FRONT LINE: VTA worker describes his job during COVID-19

2020 - Carlos A - The Front Line

During these times, it can be easy to forget all of the workers who are putting their lives at risk to make sure others are taken care of. While the majority of us abide to shelter-in-place regulations, workers on the front line like VTA's Carlos Aguevara don't have it that easy. We were able to chat with Carlos about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his life at work.

SJEarthquakes.com: Tell us what you do for work.

Carlos Aguevara: “I’ve been working for VTA since 1999; so over 20 years. I currently work there as a transit mechanic. We provide maintenance for the all the buses in Santa Clara County. Bumper to bumper service for the vehicles.

Before working for VTA, I worked in Alberta, Canada as an auto-mechanic for 10 years. Being from El Salvador, I still have nightmares about the weather. My worst experience in Canada was dealing with negative 40 degree weather one time.”

SJEQ: What kind of restrictions has COVID-19 put on your job?

CA: "We are one of the lucky ones because we can still have a full-time job during this crazy time.

On top of our normal maintenance right now, my coworkers and I are helping to clean VTA vehicles every day. It takes hours to clean the inside of each vehicle so we focus on cleaning the areas that people touch.

Right now, riding the VTA is free for everyone. Only the backs of each bus are open to the public so the driver can keep their distance from the passengers."

SJEQ: What is your day-to-day look like at work during these times?

CA: "I’m based in VTA’s Mountain View location where there are around 60 buses.

My shift starts at 7:30 a.m. and for the first two hours of the day we focus on cleaning. Sometimes we help out other VTA facilities to help them clean their vehicles on top of all the maintenance we’re already doing at our own station."

SJEQ: *Have your coworkers been affected any differently at work?

CA: "Thankfully, only one of my coworkers [a light rail conductor] got the virus but she recovered soon and is already back working full time.

The VTA has worked hard to follow all the safety protocols like wearing masks, goggles, and gloves. If we have to remove our gloves, we clean our hands with soap and hot water. We also have to stay 6 feet away from each other."

SJEQ: What has been the most challenging aspect of working under these new conditions? What have been the positives for you?

CA: "I’m just thankful to have a job. Some people have to stay home and that can be stressful; I'm thankful that we can do overtime if we want. I'm glad also, that we have a chance to give back and serve the community, and try not to operate in fear.

The challenge of working right now is the risk of getting the virus but we are following the safety protocols. Also, it’s sad to see the homeless who sometime use VTA vehicles. They are using them more than ever to seek refuge. The amount of homeless people using VTA vehicles has increased."

SJEQ: Anything else you’d like to add?

CA: "Go Earthquakes! Also, COVID-19 is just a virus. You can fight back just like fighting the flu. Focus on improving your immune system. Get sleep, ideally at least eight hours. Consume two grams of vitamin C every day. I wash my hands with soap. I gargle baking soda or apple cider vinegar every day so I'm better off.

Enjoy nature if you can. Listen to the birds. The world is always rotating. Life is beautiful. Don’t let anyone live in fear. Breathe deep. Before sleeping be grateful. Enjoy life. Don’t be in lock-down mentally. Stay free."