On March 21, Detroit bus driver Jason Hargrove shared a video on social media describing how a woman on his bus had been coughing without covering her mouth. On March 25, he fell ill. On April 2—just under two weeks after he shared his video—it was announced that Hargrove has died from COVID-19.
Yes, it is horrible and heartbreaking. It’s also vitally important for us to acknowledge stories like this.
First and foremost, this tragedy reminds us that essential workers like Hargrove are heroes in the battle against this pandemic. Many of our front line workers in the medical field rely on public transportation, as do other essential workers such as grocery store clerks and custodians. Right now, we are all relying on these folks to keep doing their jobs, even though they are quite literally risking their own health to do so. They should be commended. They should be compensated. And they should be protected as much as is humanly possible.
Hargrove’s story also reminds us how crucial it is that we all adhere to the safety guidelines for slowing the spread of this disease. Only go out to the store if it’s absolutely necessary. Behave as if you and everyone you see is already infected. We know this virus is highly contagious and far more deadly than the seasonal flu. We have to take it seriously.
“This coronavirus shit is for real,” Hargrove said in his video, “and we are here as public workers doing our job, trying to make an honest living to take care of our families. But for you to get on the bus and stand on the bus and cough several times without covering up your mouth, and you know that we in the middle of a pandemic, that lets me know that some folks don’t care…”
The video contains profanity, so view at your own discretion. But it’s worth watching and listening to what this man had to say. We do not know for sure how or when he was infected, but the timeline is on par with what we know about transmission. His job as a bus driver may literally have cost him his life because someone was thoughtless and cavelier about coughing.
“I try to be the professional that they want me to be,” said Hargrove, “and I kept my mouth closed, but at some point in time we got to draw the line and say enough is enough. That shit was uncalled for. I feel violated. I feel violated for the folks that was on the bus when this happened. It was about a good 8 or 9 people on the bus and she stood there and coughed. Never covered up her mouth.”
Unreal. It should be crystal clear to everyone by now that this virus is nothing to mess around with, and that there is a very good reason that the world has come to a screeching halt in order to stop it. Whether you feel ill or not, whether your area has had a surge in cases or not, whether you are part of the most at-risk populations or not, you need to get on board with what we’re all being asked to do.
We owe that much to Mr. Hargrove, and to all of the other essential workers who are putting their own lives on the line to keep life running for the rest of us.