South Bay nurse says fear over her contact with COVID-19 patients caused tow company to refuse service

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, a nurse on the front line says concern over her contact with COVID-19 patients kept her stranded on the side of the road with a blown out tire.

Meg King was on her way to work when her tire blew out in Watsonville, Sunday morning. Waiting at the end of her hour-long drive, was a full 12-hour shift.

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"You cannot be late as a nurse. Really. It causes problems for everybody," King explained. "Because somebody has been working 12-and-a-half hours and they're waiting for me to come in so that I can take their patients. So they can go home."



King reached out to AAA.

The company required her to answer several COVID-19-related questions. One specifically asked about whether she'd come into contact with an infected person.

She answered yes.

Stuck on the side of the road, King was told help was not coming.

"I believe that they did not pick me up because I had answered that I had taken care of COVID-19 patients," King told ABC7 News.

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She said the AAA agent had named Rossi's Towing.

On Rossi's company website, it calls itself "Santa Cruz's one and only AAA towing service provider," servicing Santa Cruz County.

ABC7 News reached out to both AAA and Rossi's Towing to learn what happened, and why King would've been left without help.

In a statement to ABC7 News , AAA said in-part, "AAA Northern California is aware of this incident involving a healthcare worker and AAA member over the weekend. We spoke to the member today and have both apologized and acknowledged this situation was not handled in the best way."

The company explained, "In this case, there was limited tow service coverage in her area."

AAA would not elaborate on whether Rossi's was involved in its response.

ABC7 News reaches out to Rossi's Towing on Wednesday.

The company supplied the following statement on Thursday:

"Rossi's Towing is an Independent Contract Station for the AAA network. AAA has provided protocols to follow during this unprecedented pandemic. These protocols are in place for the benefit of members as well as our team of drivers to reduce exposure to COVID-19. We at Rossi's Towing are re-evaluating our protocols, guiding and coaching our team daily with new ways to handle challenges that come up while continuing to provide service to the motoring public. Our sincerest apologies go out to Ms. King for this unfortunate occurrence."

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Responding to questions about new measures during COVID-19, the AAA statement read:
"During this challenging time, we are taking preventative measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, while operating as an essential service. Members are asked to respond to health-related screening questions before providing service to protect both our drivers and members. If a member answers affirmatively to any of the screening questions, we connect them with a specialized servicing team that works to find a safe solution."

"After the so-called 'specialized team' talked to her, she sat for another half-hour," King's husband, Henry Ross told ABC7 News. "Until someone told her that Rossi's refused to pick her up. Those were the words. There was no ambiguity about that."

Instead, a passing California Highway Patrol officer helped King get back on the road more than 90 minutes later.

"In all honesty, if they had just said that in the first place- like at 6:30 when I called. If they said, 'The driver's scared, is worried about getting COVID-19 and bringing it home to his family,' I honestly would've been fine and understood that," King told ABC7 News.

In the statement by AAA, the company explained, "We were unable to locate an available truck to provide her timely service so we offered to call the CHP or another service option. The member was understandably frustrated with the time it took to address her road service issue. As is our protocol to help ensure the safety of our members, we stayed on the call until, in this case, the CHP reached her."

King disputes there was any offer to call the CHP. Instead, she said the AAA agent instructed her to call 9-1-1 for help.

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King's husband, clearly frustrated, added he knows his wife is a hero in this pandemic.

"This is such hard work. It takes too much out of you," he said. "And to add this on top..."

King said after the ordeal, she was able to get in touch with a representative at Rossi's Towing who denied the company ever got the call for service.

She and her husband both shared their dissatisfaction at Rossi's and AAA, as they've received no clear explanation about why she was refused service.

ABC7 News has reached out to Rossi's Towing about the incident. The company has not yet responded.

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