COVID-19 affects ferry workers
By Wendy Axtelle, Reporter
Washington State Ferries are what island life depends on.The ferry workers who manage these boats not only connect islanders with the rest of the state, but are also members of the community. With stay at home orders and many jobs being moved online, the ferries are faced with a decrease in ridership, new safety precautions, and more challenges than ever.
“After each boat, those of us who are working will go in and sanitize the bathrooms and seats, so it is safe for people,” ferry auto attendant Michel Neuams said.
Washington State Ferries have also added additional requirements for ferry workers.
“There are questions that are asked [to] us everyday; ‘Do we feel like we have a temperature, any headaches, body aches, or shortness of breath… ’ before our shift,” Neuams said.
Though Washington State Ferries has been providing testing for workers, some workers feel the ferries have not been fully supportive and there seems to be a lack of communication.
“Just having the information a little bit sooner would have helped,” Neuams said when asked if there was anything that he wished the ferries had done differently.
Washington State Ferries has failed to keep employees informed in multiple ways.
“Employees were not told when a worker was exposed, so they felt they were being put in harm’s way,” said Shride. “As time went on, the anxiety lifted.”
With anxiety for their own safety, ferry workers have had to adjust to a new normal and a new schedule.
“They have reduced sailings due to a lack of ridership.” said Shride. “Our route … went from a three-[boat schedule]… to a two-boat schedule.” Luckily, this change won’t last forever.
“Once the ridership gets back up[to full loads]”, Neuams said when asked about the timeline for returning to three boats. Ferry staff are working hard to help protect their riders with extra precautions…
“For the most part, a lot of [passengers] are taking precautions. There are some that don’t,” Neuams said, talking about if he felt as though the passengers were taking the safety precautions. The most important thing people can do is to social distance at the ferries and be respectful of the Washington State Ferries workers.