The City of Pittsburgh is taking all due precautions to protect refuse workers from the Bureau of Environmental Services who were sent home today due to fears over COVID-19 exposure, and has been taking these precautions with all essential City personnel since the start of the pandemic.

The City has been following Centers for Disease Control guidance including having Environmental Services buildings and trucks cleaned regularly; providing workers with protective glasses and gloves; and doing daily health screenings. Workers are given gloves each day that they are not allowed to take home, and have been offered plastic gloves to wear under them if they wish.

The City has provided Environmental Services workers wipes to regularly clean off their equipment, and the City has encouraged workers to wash their uniforms daily.

Every morning workers are given a health care check-list to identify if they have any symptoms of the virus. This check-list has been mischaracterized as a “release form,” which it is not.

“Environmental Services workers are on the front lines of the City’s pandemic response and are performing a great public service to their fellow residents. We all need to come together in this time of need, and to continue supporting the personnel – including police, medics, firefighters and others – who are protecting us at this time,” Mayor William Peduto said.

The wife of a refuse worker had a presumptive positive test result reported yesterday, and the Environmental Services headquarters was cleaned and sanitized last night after the report was registered. The City contacted medical professionals immediately and made sure it was following all CDC protocols.

Neither the worker nor his wife is showing symptoms but as a precaution the worker has been placed in self-quarantine, with pay.

Additionally, shifts for the refuse workers have been staggered to lower interaction among workers in the main Environmental Services building: they are now beginning work in shifts starting at 5, 6, 7 and 8 a.m.

City officials including Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, Public Works Director Mike Gable, Assistant EMS Chief Mark Pinchalk and City Medical Director Dr. Ronald Roth spoke with representatives for the workers today to go over COVID-19 protocols.

Workers were reminded by medical officials that wearing masks was not necessary, and could even help spread the disease if workers were touching their faces while adjusting masks.

Officials from the Peduto administration and Teamsters Local 249 are working together to clear up any misunderstandings, and normal service should continue as normal tomorrow.

Residents who put their refuse at curbsides today should leave it there, and it will be collected after Thursday’s regular pickup routes are completed. When the City declared a state of emergency it was noted that residents may experience delays in refuse pickup, due to expected staffing issues connected to the pandemic.

Beginning Monday, the City will suspend pickups of bulk and yard waste to help with staffing.

City residents are reminded of these tips, first issued March 16, to make refuse collection easier and safer for Environmental Services workers:

  • Help limit exposure to germs by setting trash out for collection in substantial, leak-proof bags tied up and without tears.
  • Please stay back 50 feet from refuse and recycling vehicles
  • Slow down and look for workers before you attempt to go around any truck
  • Follow the proper set-out guidelines to prevent work-related injury
  • Do not include any prohibited materials in your curbside trash
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