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MARTA employee dies from COVID-19

MARTA has stepped up cleaning and taken other precautions to protect passengers and employees. But 22 MARTA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. (MARTA PHOTO)
MARTA has stepped up cleaning and taken other precautions to protect passengers and employees. But 22 MARTA employees have tested positive for COVID-19 so far. (MARTA PHOTO)

A MARTA employee has died from COVID-19 — the agency's first fatality from the coronavirus pandemic.

Derrick Ferguson, 53, cleaned rail stations for the agency. He died Monday, MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher confirmed. He had been with the agency since 2016. His last day on the job was April 10.

“This insidious virus is taking an immense toll on transit agencies across the country,” MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker said in a statement announcing Ferguson’s death.

“Despite the risks, brave employees such as Mr. Ferguson show up to work every day to make sure we can continue providing essential transit during this health crisis,” Parker said. “We honor his dedication and extend our deepest condolences to his family.”

MORE: A map of coronavirus cases in Georgia

MORE: Real-time stats and the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak

Though Ferguson is the first MARTA employee to die from COVID-19, 22 workers have tested positive for the disease so far. Parker’s note to employees said three have recovered, three are hospitalized and 15 are recovering at home.

Parker said Ferguson’s partner, also a MARTA employee, is among those recovering at home.

Dozens of other MARTA employees have been sent home for monitoring because they were in close contact with those who tested positive.

Across the country, dozens of transit workers have died during the pandemic. The deaths come as transit agencies try to provide an essential service for people without cars, and for health care professionals and other essential workers who rely on buses and trains to get to their jobs.

In his note to employees, Parker said MARTA will provide a $5,000 life insurance supplement to defray funeral expenses for any employee who dies as a result of COVID-19.

MARTA has taken numerous steps to protect employees and passengers. The agency has stepped up cleaning of trains, buses and stations. It has been boarding passengers at the rear of buses to separate them from drivers. It has provided wipes and hand sanitizer to employees, and it recently began distributing 250,000 masks.

MARTA also has granted up to 80 hours of emergency paid leave to employees affected by the disease. And last week it announced $500 "hero" bonuses for employees who can't work from home.