As Uber plans to restart its core rideshare business as COVID-19 restrictions ease across the country, part of the plan requires drivers and riders to wear face masks or face coverings while using the platform in specific countries—including the United States.
According to CNN Business, Uber executives approved the policy last week. Information regarding the new requirements will be released in the weeks to come. According to Uber’s head of safety communications Andrew Hasbun, “As countries reopen, Uber is focused on safety and proceeding with caution. Today, we continue to ask riders to stay home if they can, while shipping safety supplies to drivers who are providing essential trips. At the same time, our teams are preparing for the next phase of recovery, where we will all have a role to play.”
Robyn Gershon, a New York University epidemiology professor, has stated that wearing a face mask is necessary for anyone utilizing rideshare services because COVID-19 spreads easily in close contact. She also noted in comments to CNN that it’s important that masks be changed out frequently, which means approximately every eight hours for drivers who work long hours. If a mask is reusable, it should be placed in a Ziplock bag after use and washed.
To enforce the new policy, Uber is in the process of developing technology to detect if drivers are wearing masks or coverings before they go online to start accepting trips. Currently, the company has face verification capabilities as part of its Real-Time ID-check, which verifies the identity of drivers. The company is looking into ways to hold riders accountable as well.
Once the policy is in place, Uber drivers and delivery workers will be required to wear some kind of face covering, regardless of whether they’ve received a company-provided mask—which could mean using a homemade mask or bandana. Uber plans to get masks to drivers who need them as soon as possible.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, Uber’s Rides business made up 81% of the company’s adjusted net revenue. Eats, the food delivery service that has become the primary source of revenue during the pandemic, only accounted for 11%. With the coronavirus pandemic and the significant decline in Rides usage, Uber is considering significant staff cuts and looking for ways to make up for lost revenue.
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