DENVER, CO - APRIL 17: A rider waits to board the westbound 15L RTD bus as it arrives on E. Colfax Ave. at Krameria Street on April 17, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo By Kathryn Scott)

Mile High Connects, a transit advocacy group in the Denver metro area, has delivered 2,000 surgical masks and 240 face shields for the Regional Transportation District’s operators.

“I know that all of RTD is grateful," said RTD Director Kate Williams, District A.

The protective equipment originated from Yeti Cycles in Golden. While RTD had an order of approximately 21,000 face masks in place during March, the products went to medical personnel instead, leaving the union, the agency and its contractors scrambling for substitutes. The president of the largest operator union sent a letter to the Federal Transit Administration on April 15 requesting help in securing equipment.

“We are fortunate to have a dedicated, multi-talented staff who could easily and willingly shift priorities quickly,” said Bill Mueller, the chief financial officer of Yeti Cycles. “We will deliver 20,000 shields and 24,000 masks into our local front range community by early May and have been overwhelmed by the need.”

Mile High Connects has also given $3,000 to Redline Contemporary Art Center in Denver to employ 10 artists in the creation of 600 additional masks for transit operators. The initiative follows an effort from Director Natalie Menten, District M, to organize volunteers to create homemade face masks for the more than 2,000 bus and light rail operators. As of Monday, Menten said that she had 1,000 masks as a result of the project.

Two months into the COVID-19 pandemic response, protective equipment shortages are still a problem nationwide. A survey of healthcare facilities found that virtually all of them had run out of at least one type of protection, while the majority warned that they would run out of supplies within two weeks. For transit agencies, the Federal Transit Administration refers requests for protective equipment to local governments and, if necessary, to states.

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