Coronavirus News: Behind-the-scenes look at what MTA bus drivers deal with during COVID-19 pandemic

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- In an Eyewitness News exclusive, we're getting an in-depth look at the pivotal role city bus drivers play in getting essential workers on the front lines during the pandemic.

In every job, there's a routine.

For Anarda Florentino, a New York City MTA bus driver, that routine could save her life.

"It feels kinda sad. It feels something's wrong in the air every night," Florentino said.

After a full day of home schooling her two kids, Florentino puts on her armor and gets to work.

She's driven MTA buses for 13 years. Florentino switched to the graveyard shift during the pandemic.

She's the ultimate essential worker, helping all the others get to work.

"Right now they don't have nobody to rely on, just the bus," Florentino said.

Florentino's job has only gotten more important as the pandemic has dragged on.

With the subways now closed for cleaning from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., the only way for essential workers to get to or from their jobs is on the bus.

When the overnight subway scrubbing began last week, the transit authority said bus ridership jumped 76 percent, as nurses, cooks and delivery people moved above ground for their commutes.

"Nobody talks. Everybody's complete silence on the bus," Florentino said.

On Thursday night, the Bx21 had few takers.

People board through the rear door and there's a sheet of vinyl keeping them away from the front -- where it gets pretty lonely.

But for Florentino, driving around with nothing but her thoughts, there's no place she'd rather be.

"You know what? Before I didn't hear a lot of thank yous," Florentino said. "Now, a lot of customers say 'thank you driver! I appreciate your time. Thank you driver have a nice day.'"

New York was built on sacrifice by hard-working people who never get all that much credit.

People like Florentino.

Every night she drives this ailing city closer to brighter days ahead.


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