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'We’re not essential. We’re sacrificial': Valley bus drivers battling COVID concerned about passengers not wearing masks

Back in April, shortly before contracting COVID-19, a Valley bus driver raised red flags about cleanliness and the possibility for the virus to spread on buses.

PHOENIX — Troubles continue for Valley bus drivers trying to balance their health and their jobs.

Several drivers have tested positive for the coronavirus and one driver who was hospitalized from the virus fears more will.

“I’m better. I’m not dead. But I’m not where I want to be," said Markell Taylor.

Three months.

That's how long Markell Taylor has been battling the coronavirus. After fighting for his life in the ICU, he has finally tested negative, though he's still dealing with lingering symptoms.

“I’m living through this. I’m going through this now. My body is not the same and I feel it every day," Taylor said.

Credit: Markell Taylor

Back in April, shortly before contracting COVID-19, Taylor, a Valley bus driver, raised red flags about cleanliness and the possibility for the virus to spread on buses. Bus drivers are considered essential employees.

Despite his warnings then, he says drivers including his wife are still dealing with safety concerns. This time, it is from passengers refusing to wear masks or keep them on once on the bus.

RELATED: I-TEAM: Valley bus driver who warned of lack of PPE now hospitalized with COVID-19

“My black and brown people are dying more. So I’m very serious about it," Taylor said. "You’re going to have more of us getting sick.”

Taylor was right.

“We’re not essential. We’re sacrificial," said Rosemary Marquez.

Rosemary Marquez is another Valley bus driver who has tested positive. The coronavirus combined with her asthma landed her in the hospital.

Credit: Rosemary Marquez

“It knocks you out and just catches your breath and it’s just instant. Hurts like hell," Marquez said.

According to a City of Phoenix spokesperson, riders are required to wear face coverings. The city is even handing out free masks at certain centers.

Credit: 12 News

But Rosemary and Markell say drivers have no power when it comes to enforcing the mask mandate. They fear without harsher penalties for passengers, drivers will continue to pay the price.

“You cannot get on a bus and smoke a cigarette. If you do, there’s a mandatory enforceable rule that says hey you gotta get off. Period. If you don’t I’m calling the cops. Why would you let someone on the bus without a mask and not make it enforceable?” Taylor said.

Much like Markell, Rosemary was initially not getting paid by her employer, First Transit, while out with the coronavirus. One day after 12 News contacted the company, a spokesperson said they confirmed her diagnosis and Rosemary found out she will be getting full pay. 

RELATED: Valley bus driver hospitalized with COVID-19 to receive full pay

Rosemary was discharged from the hospital Wednesday night and will continue recovering at home.

RELATED: 'Please do something for us.' Sick Valley bus driver pleads for more protection

RELATED: Detroit bus driver who posted video about coughing rider dies from COVID-19