Missouri taxi company bans vaccinated passengers


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  • Charlie Bullington, owner of Yo Transportation, wants his passengers to share his conspiracy theories.

West of the St. Louis metropolitan area, a local taxi company’s policy of denying service to vaccinated and masked customers rocked the small town of Pacific, where residents and passengers were forced to dealing with the consequences of what happens when a local taxi market is cornered by a delusional.

“We don’t really have a taxi service here,” said Jessica, a Pacific resident who asked to be identified only by her first name. “Sometimes you can get a Lyft driver close enough, but, you know, they’re not always available. I have to schedule it.”

One day in June, Jessica said she had planned to enjoy an evening of dining and music from one of her favorite local bands. She tried Lyft, but no driver was available in the area.

But there was another option, a local car service operated by another Pacific resident. The company, Yo Transportation, operates a fleet of pink taxis that transport passengers in Franklin County and travelers en route to St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

That day, Jessica says, she called Yo Transportation’s number and left a voicemail requesting a ride. Charlie Bullington, the owner, returned her call and asked if she was a returning customer.

“I’ve been saying ‘No’ since moving to the area not too long ago,” she recalls, describing the conversation. “And then he said, ‘Well I have two rules.'”

At this point, Jessica says she assumed she was about to learn that passengers cannot smoke or drink on the way to their destination. She didn’t expect the first rule to be: “There are no masks allowed in my vehicles.”

Still, it wasn’t a compromise for Jessica. The delta variant had not yet started crossing the Missouri. She had caught COVID-19 in 2020 and, when the vaccines were rolled out in 2021, she received her vaccines at the earliest opportunity.

“I told him it was not a problem,” she continues. “I’m vaccinated, I’ve had COVID, I’m fine without a mask. I don’t mind.”

According to Jessica, Bullington’s responded, “I’m sorry, but that’s my rule number two, and you just broke it. We can’t come and pick you up tonight.”

Jessica was surprised. After asking him what he meant, she says Bullington explained that he does not allow anyone vaccinated against COVID in his vehicles. The phone call ended, and she was eventually able to book a Lyft ride to the show for a higher price than she would have paid if she had followed the rules of the only cab service in town.

“When he told me his period, I just couldn’t believe what I heard,” she says now. “And I guess I’m not the only one feeling that.”

Indeed, online reviews and social media posts dating back to the summer of 2020 show several cases of runners complaining about Bullington’s behavior and Yo Transportation’s anti-vaccine and anti-mask policies.

On Facebook, a woman said that a Yo Transportation driver denied her a ride because she was vaccinated and “shed skin cells containing poison” – likely a reference to the theory, which has no basis in reality, that the ‘shedding’ vaccine can make people nearby sick.

In a June thread about taxi service posted to a Pacific-focused Facebook thread, two people wrote that they knew passengers who had also been denied service for wearing masks.

But based on an investigation of the publications and reviews on the web, the company actually took its antagonistic stance on COVID mitigation measures long before vaccines became available. For example, in an August 2020 Yelp review, a passenger wrote that his Yo Transportation driver made a “political rant” during the trip and told them their masks “could make us sick.”

The review concluded, “Save yourself and your sanity and don’t use this business.”

On Google’s page for the company, another reviewer claimed that their driver had texted them repeatedly even after denying them a ride, writing: “This man spent 2 hours texting me at About his anti-mask nonsense. I had to ask him three times to leave on my own. ”

A potential second pilot shared a similar experience, detailing in a Google review, “When I refused to make the trip after learning about the mask ban policy, they sent me an anti-propaganda text message. -mask that was not appreciated. It is my choice to wear a mask just as it is their choice not to wear a mask. ”

However, Yo Transportation does not seem daunted by the reaction of people who always do what they can to ensure their safety and that of those around them. August 5, KMOV (Channel 4) aired a segment on Bullington’s affairs, breaking down the story of his unusual strategy of discrimination. The segment featured an interview with the owner of the business himself, but also included the voices of Dr Farrin Manian, an infectious disease expert at Mercy Hospital, and a woman who said she was d agree with Bullington because she thinks the COVID vaccine and mask measures are “a bunch of hooey.”

For its part, Bullington told KMOV reporter Emma Hogg that he does not intend to change his policies or his beliefs about riders, even if it has an impact on his business results: he revealed that he lost about three in ten passengers to of its policy against masked and vaccinated people.

During the interview, Bullington said of his company, “We are very against vaccines” and then wrongly claimed that Missouri is “one of the three least vaccinated states” and that ” I am proud of all the people of Missouri. for opposing this. ”

In fact, Missouri is the 13th least vaccinated state, with about 42 percent of the population fully vaccinated. As of Friday, about 48% – more than three million Missourians – had gotten their first two-shot vaccine.

But for residents of Pacific, where Yo Transportation is often the only option, Bullington’s beliefs have become a reality that everyone has to contend with – like when John Jump’s car was in the store and he needed it. one ride to Walmart.

“When I called him he insisted – he asked me if I was vaccinated and then he told me I couldn’t ride with him, “Jomp said in an interview, describing his attempt to book a ride with Bullington.

Jomp, a former Uber driver, says there just aren’t enough people in the Pacific to run the rideshare app like in towns closer to St. Louis, where drivers are constantly driving between. trips and often within minutes.

“It’s hard to find rides that originate from the Pacific. It’s the only ‘taxi service’ around, so people have to use it,” Jomp explains.

“It’s hard to understand why he’s doing that,” he adds. “He’s just one of those conspiracy theorists. A lot of people are.”

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at
@D_Towski. Email the author at [email protected]

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