Griffin-Spalding County school bus driver, monitor die after battle with COVID-19, according to co-workers

There is some concern right now among some local school bus drivers after two of their co-workers died from COVID-19.

Griffin-Spalding County school leaders confirmed that a bus driver and a bus monitor recently died.

Cathedra Jones told FOX 5 Atlanta's Brian Hill a lot of her peers are afraid right now because of these COVID-19 cases, and are doing all they can to stay safe. 

Jones, a driver since the late 1980s, says at this point, she's thinking about retiring.

"Life is more important than money," Jones said.

School district leaders tell us that nine bus drivers were out Monday due to positive COVID-19 cases.

RELATED: DPH says half of Georgia's recent COVID-19 outbreaks traced to schools

The district said two are currently hospitalized and one is on a ventilator.

"It's very scary. With myself, with me having COVID and knowing how it was I stayed in ICU myself for three months. So to know that someone else is going through that is devastating," Jones said. 

Jones believes she caught the virus through her job last year and fears she may get it again.

"I won't be able to pull through that again. I know that," Jones explained. 

District leaders told FOX 5 News that a driver and her bus monitor died last week.

Their colleagues say they had the deadly virus.

"I was just devastated. I felt like it was my family because bus drivers are my family," Jones mentioned.

The shortage of drivers due to COVID and other reasons has impacted school bus routes.

The district told us they're currently combining bus routes where possible and many drivers run multiple routes to help get the children to and from school.

That plan is a concern for Jones who says combining the routes could negatively affect contact tracing.

"Right now, when you go back and pick up other routes, you may have 30 or 40 children at a time and they may not have masks on. They may not be social distancing and also you don't have a chance to Spray and sanitize your bus before you pick up other children," Jones said. 

District leaders explained that they're actively recruiting and training new drivers to replace those sick bus drivers.

The district has offered health benefits, retirement and a $500 signing bonus.

There're also incentives to keep the drivers they have.

"They're offering us a $1,000  incentive to stay," Jones described.

Here's what Jones believes the district can do right now to ease their concerns.

"Shut all the way. Let everybody quarantine for the two weeks to just see where we are because I think if going in and coming out and mixing and mingling that's not solving any problems," she said. 

According to the most recent health data from the school district: 180 students and 29 employees currently have the virus.

The district requires masks, quarantines students when needed and sanitizes buses and school spaces.

They also provide temperature screenings in schools.

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