COVID-19 positive bus driver Kimar Service, who took to social media to tell his story, says he doesn’t blame the female passenger who gave him the virus.
She’s in the bed next to him, at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James, so he’s had a chance to tell her he bears her no ill will.
“She asked me [if he’s upset], but she didn’t know she had it [when she got in his bus],” he told the Jamaica Observer by phone on Saturday. He’s hoping others will be as understanding with him, so that when he recovers he will still be able to make a living as a bus driver. Since word spread that he tested positive he said, it’s been hard on his family and he’s being blamed for bringing the virus into his Springfield, St James, community. “Is like a me bring it come yah, a jus so dem mek me feel,” he said.
Service is the sole breadwinner for his family which includes a brother who now has a broken leg; his 61-year-old mother who has diabetes and hypertension, as well as kidney problems; his young child and her mother. The rest of his family is now quarantined, waiting for results of their tests.
Service posted a video on WhatsApp to confirm that he has the virus and clear the air, following persistent rumours that his entire family was infected after he picked up a COVID-19-positive passenger from the airport. “I want the public to know that’s not true. [On April 6] I was on a regular, routine, day-to-day job driving from Maroon Town to Montego Bay. I picked up the passenger; I didn’t know that she has it,” he told the Sunday Observer. She [sat] in the front, right beside me. Four days after, I got a call saying that I [had] come in contact with someone who has the virus so I should get tested. Four days after, [the test] came back positive.”
Service says he isolated himself as soon as he got the call that he had come in contact with an infected person, and health officials who spoke with him after he did the test told him to self-isolate. In the days after the test, health officials would call to make sure he was staying at home, as well as ask him to take and report his temperature using a thermometer they had provided, he said. He was also told to keep a record of any symptoms of COVID-19.
But for the four days before that, he had gone about his life unaware that he was potentially spreading the deadly disease, which has killed thousands around the world, to his family and passengers. He never wore a mask or gloves while on the job, and recalls that on the day he got infected he had gone upstairs, as usual, to chat with his mother. Health authorities have repeatedly stressed that persons over 60 and with underlying health conditions such as hypertension are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Asked how many passengers he had transported during the four days before he knew he was exposed to the virus, Service said in a heavy voice, “A lot.” In trying to come up with a number, he explained that he did about three trips per day and each trip had anywhere between three and twelve passengers each time. That would be between nine and thirty-six persons who were in his bus over that four-day period when he had no idea he was putting them at risk. He had no symptoms for those four days, he said, and he still has none, even with his positive test.
From his hospital bed on Saturday he offered words of advice to the public, “It’s simple, wear a mask and sanitise. It doesn’t have to be that you are feeling anything [symptoms]. If you think that you got exposed, it doesn’t cost anything to do a test, yuh nuh. It’s free. Do a test to be on the safe side.”