While the news media highlights the public's expression of gratitude around the world for essential workers, law enforcement is reporting incidences of attacks on them.

Earlier this month, the NYPD reported an incident where a Bus Operators in the Bronx was spat at.

The BBC reported earlier this month the April 5 COVID-19-linked death of a 47-year-old female train ticket-taker working at London's Victoria Station who on March 22 was spit on by a man who told her he had the coronavirus.

'Brings Out Worst, Too'

At a May 13 press briefing, Dr. Michael J. Ryan, the World Health Organization's emergencies director, said his agency had documented dozens of unprovoked assaults on health-care workers, many of them minorities, in 11 countries, including the United States.

"COVID-19 is bringing out the best in us, but it's also bringing out some of the worst," Dr. Ryan said. "It's bringing out reactionary groups, it's enhancing discrimination and in some ways we're seeing the facilitation of extreme responses in which people feel empowered to take out their frustrations on individuals who are purely trying to help the communities." 

The Chicago-Sun Times reported that a Chicago nurse was punched in her face while returning home from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The assailant accused the nurse of coughing at him, but surveillance footage confirmed she had coughed into her elbow.

According to the NYPD, on May 5 a Bus Operator in the Soundview section of The Bronx was confronted by a man who spit at her and hit the bus with a stick. A couple of similar attacks on transit workers in that borough had occurred in March.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Ken Lovett told the newspaper the attacks were "appalling."

'Disgusting and Cowardly'

"What kind of person does this?" asked Tony Utano, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents the Bus Operators. "Spitting on a transit worker who is serving the public is a disgusting and cowardly act in the best of times. Doing it during a pandemic is beyond horrendous. When these individuals are caught, prosecutors and judges should throw the book at them."

That "book" could get heavier if legislation proposed by Long Island State Sen. Jim Gaughran to increase penalties for assaulting essential workers during a state of emergency becomes law.

Mr. Gaughran said in a statement, "Rogue criminals who threaten, harass, or attack these brave heroes must be held accountable for interfering with essential workers' abilities to do their jobs." 

"Targeting someone because of their profession causes essential workers, who are already under tremendous stress, to incur added anxiety unnecessarily," the legislation states. "Protecting these workers is paramount to our public health, safety and welfare."

Won't Be Last Time

Michael O'Meara, president of the New York State Association of PBAs, said in a statement, "The current state of emergency, and the likelihood of similar situations occurring in the future, has unfortunately demonstrated the necessity for this legislation."

The measure would cover both public- and private-sector workers who are required to work during situations when the public is directed to stay at home.

"These selfless front-line heroes have put their own health on the line, and the last thing they should ever have to worry about is physical or verbal assault and harassment," said John R. Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor  and Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW.

Above photo courtesy of NYC DOT

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