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How is COVID-19 is Affecting Uber and Lyft?

First some safety tips for drivers:

Wear masks. COVID-19 spreads in tiny droplets from coughing, sneezing, even breathing or talking. A mask will help protect both the driver and the customer from spreading the virus. Keeping spare masks handy for customers without one would also be helpful. Free masks are even available for Lyft drivers in certain locations.

Ask customers to use hand sanitizer when they get in: People unconsciously touch their faces constantly, not to mention come into contact with several objects like their phones or door handles before getting into a car. Drivers should provide hand sanitizer so customers can disinfect their hands the moment they get in to minimize the chances of leaving the virus wherever they touch. 

Sanitize the vehicle before and after every ride: Drivers should use disinfectant sprays or wipes on the seat, handles, doors, and as many surfaces as possible before and after each customer.

If a Driver Falls Ill, There Is Help 

Uber and Lyft will both provide drivers financial assistance if the driver has an active case of COVID-19 or has been ordered to self-quarantine because they’re suspected of having the virus. Until the COVID-19 outbreak is under control, safety should be a top priority. Nearly every industry right now is being affected by the stay-at-home mandate surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and Uber and Lyft are not an exception in this. Ridesharing apps are experiencing a serious downward trend in traffic (no pun intended). In fact, The Verge reports that Uber’s Seattle bookings are down 60 to 70% with similar declines in other major markets. Luckily for Uber, the company has $10 billion in unrestricted cash and no major debt payments due until 2023.

But what about the drivers who rely on income from driving gigs? Many don’t have the cash reserves Uber has and can’t stay home. Many are forced to keep working, risking their health and the health of their families. To make matters worse, Uber and Lyft have been fighting against the state of California about rideshare driver employment status since well before the outbreak, leaving many wondering how they will pay their bills if things get worse or they get the virus.

What Rights do Gig Workers Have?

California insists that rideshare drivers are company employees, and therefore, Uber and Lyft should provide their employees with benefits and protections. Uber and Lyft are opposed and are lobbying for independent contractor status to avoid having to pay drivers hourly wages, health insurance, and workers’ compensation. 

While the companies are busy fighting their drivers’ work statuses, drivers are pretty much left to figure things out alone. For example, there was some controversy around the LED lights Lyft and Uber provide. Drivers have received tickets in municipalities where the LED dashboard lights are illegal. The ridesharing companies take no responsibility for the fines and recommend drivers to use them; knowing whether they’re legal or not falls on the driver.

Examples like the LED light situation show how drivers are essentially on their own should anything go wrong. Something has gone terribly wrong, and it’s called a pandemic. Millions of drivers are left wondering if they’re eligible for unemployment benefits or any assistance now that there’s hardly any work. The tricky situation goes beyond the state of California. COVID-19 has exposed the lack of a safety net that drivers and other gig workers have nationwide.

What Can Drivers do to Compensate for Their Loss of Income?

Uber and Lyft drivers are in a unique situation. Gig workers and freelancers may be able to work from home, but Uber and Lyft can’t send their drivers home to work remotely. Drivers are technically part of the service industry focusing on transportation. They rely on people to hire them for their car-related services. 

A good option for drivers is to pivot into delivery gigs. The jobs are safer; public gatherings are canceled for now because the virus is highly contagious. Pivoting into delivery driver work is a better bet than driving customers around since drivers don’t have to be in close contact with customers. 

Food and grocery delivery apps such as UberEats, GrubHub, Postmates, and DoorDash are one of the few industries experiencing growth at this time. Most people are tired of home-cooked meals or can’t cook in the first place. They rely on food delivery services to eat or satisfy their cravings for Thai food or sushi. Lyft has partnered with Amazon to transition drivers into delivery work through the Amazon Workforce website.

Then there are the grocery delivery apps. Apps like Instacart, Shipt, and Walmart Grocery have been downloaded in record numbers since the COVID-19 outbreak started. Customers may feel uncomfortable about going out shopping during this time, and few are in the mood to fight other shoppers over the last package of toilet paper. Grocery delivery apps can provide a new way for Uber and Lyft drivers to make up for their loss of driving income for now. 

How Drivers Can Protect Their Health When Picking up Customers

For most drivers, they don’t have the luxury to take a semi-permanent staycation right now. They still need to pick up rides to make ends meet. There are steps they can take to safeguard their health and the health of their customers. These safety steps require more work, but what options do many have? Here are some changes they can make to reduce the risk of getting infected with the coronavirus.

Article Submitted by: Frankie Wallace

Image Source: Unsplash