According to the Skunk Train’s General Manager Robert Pinoli, an employee of the railroad has tested positive for COVID-19 after falling ill and calling in sick. Pinoli said the employee has not worked since Tuesday, July 28, 2020.
Pinoli emphasized that “no contact tracing has been completed, and we will wait before speculating on the ultimate source of transmission.” Pinoli said, “We are working with Public Health and will keep the public informed as we know more.”
In light of the recent letter to Willits citizens regarding deficient municipal budgets, the Skunk Train’s employee testing positive for COVID-19 could amplify the city’s economic woes by diminishing customers and the revenue of the well-known tourist attraction.
Since reopening and submission of the self-certification plan to Mendocino County, Pinoli said, “We have been following robust cleaning protocols, and our riders have been incredibly respectful across the board, wearing masks at all times and adhering to distancing requirements.”
Pinoli provided insight into the Skunk Train’s adoption of pandemic protocols. He explained, “As a common carrier public utility railroad, we fall under federal jurisdiction, so when the guidance came out from the Governor, we didn’t fit into any of the guidance plans. We didn’t take the easy road and pick a plan that was less restrictive, we created a hybrid of the two most restrictive plans.”
Pinoli said the ultimate goal of the guidelines was for the Skunk Train to “be safe for our staff first and foremost and guests.” He characterized the staff of the Skunk Train reopening “cautiously” and not “driven to make profits for some corporation,” but “driven by the passion I have to keep living breathing (even with a mask on) history alive.”
In spite of comments on social media, Pinoli disagreed with what he called “finger-pointing” at Mendocino County tourists. He said, “We’ve found them to be respectful, appreciative of our efforts, and compliant with our requirements.”
The Skunk Train is a mainstay of Mendocino County tourism and according to the literature on the businesses website, “The Redwood Route has been carrying trains, cargo, and passengers since 1885, through the majestic setting of Mendocino County’s ancient redwood groves.”