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HART leader tests positive for COVID-19, urges employees to stay safe

Ruthie Reyes Burckard had been working from home as she awaited test results.
Ruthie Reyes Burckard, interim chief executive of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, has tested positive for COVID-19.
Ruthie Reyes Burckard, interim chief executive of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, has tested positive for COVID-19. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Dec. 10, 2020|Updated Dec. 10, 2020

TAMPA — The interim leader of Hillsborough’s transit authority sent a letter to employees Wednesday urging them to remain diligent with their health after she tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Ruthie Reyes Burckard, interim chief executive of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, received a positive COVID-19 test result Wednesday. She wrote a letter, sent to all employees, explaining the timeline and assuring them that the team’s health and well-being is the agency’s primary concern.

“It is important that we take special care of ourselves and our loved ones,” Burckard said in the letter. “I ask that you protect yourself and others as HART maintains a healthy workplace to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

She encouraged people to continue practicing measures the agency put in place at the start of the pandemic: Stay home if you are sick, wear a mask, distance when possible and disinfect regularly.

Burckard said she started feeling sick over the weekend and went to get tested. She worked from home as a precaution while waiting for her results.

“Other than mild symptoms, I am doing well,” she wrote. “I am working in isolation and am able to participate in virtual meetings and continue to lead the agency.”

Burckard’s positive test brings the agency total for COVID-19 cases to 63. That includes 27 bus drivers, six van drivers and two streetcar operators.

Burckard was appointed interim chief executive in the fall after the previous interim leader resigned. The agency is in the process of finalizing a contract with its next chief executive, Adelee Le Grand.

Le Grand is expected to make $250,000 a year and to start later this month.

Burckard’s role as interim chief executive has taken her to public events, such as the debut of the agency’s driverless shuttle. Burckard did not attend Monday’s board meeting in person and was not at Tuesday’s announcement in downtown Tampa about a state grant of $67 million the agency is receiving to extend the TECO Line Streetcar.

More than 62,400 people in Hillsborough have tested positive for the novel coronavirus this year. The virus has killed nearly 1,000 people in the county, and statewide deaths related to COVID-19 could top 20,000 in the next week.

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