Coronavirus: Pittsburgh garbage collectors refuse to pick up trash, claim lack of protection

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh garbage collectors are refusing to do trash pickup, claiming they are not being protected during the coronavirus outbreak.

Workers gathered Wednesday morning outside the Pittsburgh Bureau of Environmental Services building.

“We’re playing Russian roulette with every garbage bag that we’re grabbing,” employee Sheldon White said. “Half the people don’t tie their bags, so when the stuff spills out, they tell you to pick it up. There’s Kleenexes that people blow their nose and cough in.”

“We’re playing Russian roulette with every garbage bag that we’re grabbing,” employee Sheldon White said. “Half the people don’t tie their bags, so when the stuff spills out, they tell you to pick it up. There’s Kleenexes that people blow their nose and cough in.”

Workers said they want protective equipment and hazard pay.

The workers were sent home with pay Wednesday morning and were told to come back Thursday, when normal service is expected to resume.

Pittsburgh city officials released a statement, saying, they were taking “all due precautions" to protect sanitation workers.

“The City has been following Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) guidance including having Environmental Services buildings and trucks cleaned regularly; providing workers with protective glasses and gloves; and doing daily health screenings," the statement said. "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."

Officials said the wife of an employee had a presumptive positive test result, which was reported Tuesday. As a result, the Environmental Services headquarters was cleaned and sanitized, the report was registered, and medical professionals were contacted to ensure CDC protocols were followed.

The worker is in self-quarantine, officials said, though he and his wife are not showing symptoms.

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