- Some Uber drivers, anxious about the coronavirus outbreak, say they have taking matters into their own hands to avoid exposure to the illness.
- On web forums and in interviews with Business Insider, drivers said they’re avoiding picking up passengers from airports, cutting down their hours, and cleaning their cars more frequently.
- US health officials have warned companies to operate under the assumption that an outbreak could occur in the United States in the near future.
- Drivers said they haven’t heard any official communication from Uber about best practices for avoiding transmission or how the company planned to act in the case of an outbreak.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For Uber drivers, letting dozens of travellers into their personal vehicles every day is routine. Coronavirus may be changing that.
US experts and government agencies have warned that an outbreak of COVID-19, the coronavirus disease, could be imminent, but Uber drivers say they haven’t heard any official guidance from Uber itself. As a result, drivers are taking matters into their own hands as fears of the virus swirl.
In interviews with Business Insider, Uber drivers echoed fears that have been circulating in web forums for drivers over the past month. (Drivers are referred to by only their first names to protect their identities, which Business Insider has verified.)
“I work in the [San Francisco] Bay Area and stopped doing airport pickups and cut my hours way back,” Yoo, a California Uber driver, told Business Insider. “This same car I use for Uber is the same car I drop my daughter off at school in.”
Other drivers have taken broader measures in the wake of coronavirus reports. Michael, an Uber driver in Washington, DC, said he’s been “cracking the window on rides” in an attempt to avoid catching germs. Nate, a driver in Las Vegas, said he has cut back his hours across the board.
“My significant other is reluctant to let me work. It’s a common topic of discussion in my rides now, often jokingly, but with a hint of underlying nervousness from all parties,” he told Business Insider. “I typically Lysol the car … after I get anyone in the car coughing.”
Uber said in a statement to Business Insider that the company has formed a dedicated global team to respond to coronavirus outbreaks as needed across the globe, guided by advice from a “public health expert” consultant.
“We are always working to help ensure the safety of our employees and everyone who uses Uber, and we continue to be concerned by the ongoing spread of coronavirus,” an Uber representative said. “We remain in close contact with local public health organisations and will continue to follow their recommendations.”
On a subreddit for Uber drivers, people have debated whether to worry about the coronavirus over the course of the past month, bickering over whether the ridesharing industry would be affected by the “disruption” the CDC has warned, or whether the concerns amount to “fearmongering.” A lack of top-down communication from Uber isn’t helping the confusion.
“I’m sure they don’t want to cause a stir and make less drivers want to go out which equals their money not being made,” Nate told Business Insider. “This is a new type of situation so I think they are remaining complacent but acting as they need.”
Drivers said Uber hadn’t sent them any official guidance addressing COVID-19, but it has acted in at least one case. A coronavirus patient in London took an Uber to the hospital; after the incident was reported, Uber said it temporarily suspended the driver’s account out of “an abundance of caution.”
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