Every rideshare driver is keenly aware of how the COVID-19 situation has changed the lives of every American, including the millions of gig workers around the world.
As fellow rideshare drivers and members of the gig economy, we want to help every driver stay safe during this time, so we’ve put together a guide to help rideshare drivers through this difficult time.
The situation is evolving faster than anyone can keep up with, which is why we’ll be updating this blog as best we can.
Table of Contents
- What is Coronavirus and what are the symptoms?
- What should a driver do if they believe they have symptoms?
- How many people have contracted the novel coronavirus COVID-19
- How do drivers feel about coronavirus?
- How are Uber and Lyft responding?
- How are driver earnings being affected?
- What do public health officials say?
- What should drivers do?
What Is Coronavirus and what are the symptoms?
Rideshare drivers, please hear and believe me when I say this is SERIOUS. This is a global pandemic that needs to be taken as seriously as possible. This is not fake news. This is not an overaction. This is the most serious global health threat that any of us have faced in our lifetime.
So let’s start off by getting the facts straight.
Coronavirus is part of the family of viruses that cause the common cold—but it is a novel virus, meaning one that has been newly discovered. The disease caused by the virus is (aptly) coronavirus disease, more commonly known as COVID-19. It is a respiratory disease that infects the lungs and can cause a range of symptoms, from sore throat and body aches to high fever and shortness of breath.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms such as …
- Shortness of breath
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the mortality rate of COVID-19 is 3.4%. This is significantly higher than the current seasonal flu mortality rate and poses a great risk.
It should be noted that this mortality rate is indeed lower than that of other viral outbreaks like SARS, MERS, and Ebola. However, the rate of spread is faster for COVID-19, which is what is causing concern.
The first cases of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) were reported in Asia in 2003. From November 2002 to July 2003, more than 8,000 probable SARS cases were reported to the WHO, though there were only 8 confirmed cases in the US.
Most people with SARS became ill within 2 to 10 days after exposure. The death rate was nearly 10% but could increase to over 50% in adults older than 60.
MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and there were nearly 2,500 confirmed cases with only 2 patients testing positive in the US. The mortality rate for MERS is about 34%.
In comparison, COVID-19 has spread to more than 145 countries and infected more than 180,000 as of March 16th, 2020. Globally, there have been around 7,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 as of March 16th, 2019.
What should a driver do if they believe they have symptoms?
If you believe that you are experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, the best thing that you can do is to talk to a medical professional immediately.
Drivers can access the Gridwise app where we have partnered with Ro to provide drivers with a free and easy Telehealth assessment to ensure that drivers get free video consultations.
Simply navigate to the perks section of your app to start your telehealth assessment.
How many people currently have coronavirus?
As of March 17th, 2020 more than 5,000 COVID-19 cases in the United States with 92 deaths.
To keep track of the number of cases, we recommend using John Hopkins University’s tracker here. You can also see their statistics below:
How Do Drivers Feel About Coronavirus?
In early March, we took the pulse of the Gridwise driver community and found that driver concern is incredibly high around getting the virus, and the economic impact that the virus will have.
Most drivers are at least a little worried about their chances of getting the virus as a result of driving. Around 43% of the 600 drivers we surveyed said they were “very concerned,” while 38% reported being “somewhat concerned.” Only 17% were “not concerned.”
Another issue that concerns drivers is reduced earnings, with 53% of those surveyed saying they were “very concerned.” Another 31% of drivers were “somewhat concerned” about reduced earnings, and only 15% were “not concerned.”
Some 40% of drivers said they have changed their strategy due to coronavirus, while 59% have not.
A full 70% said they were protecting themselves from the virus as they drive, and 29% said they were not taking extra precautions.
Please note that this survey was taken in early March and the numbers have likely significantly shifted. EVERY driver at this point is concerned about the health and economic impact of this virus. What’s more alarming is how many drivers NEED to be able to drive in order to survive.
In a more recent survey of more than 2,000 drivers, we learned that 82% of drivers say they couldn’t pay their household bills if they needed to take 14 days off due to the novel coranavirus.
How are Uber and Lyft responding?
At this point, Uber, Lyft, and pretty much every major TNC is encouraging drivers and passengers a like to stay off the road.
When passengers open the app, they are greeted with the following message.
Anyone that has previously started the process to become a Uber or Lyft driver will likely receive a message like this:
However, both Uber and Lyft appear to be telling drivers to practice extreme caution, but not necessarily to stay off the road.
They have advised frequent hand washing, using tissues to cover coughs or sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in your vehicle, such as seat belts and door handles.
Both Uber and Lyft have completely shut down their pooled rides programs and shut down their local hubs.
More importantly, both Uber and Lyft have pledged to support drivers that have been quaranted due to the virus or have become ill from the virus.
One thing that has added to the spread of misinformation about coronavirus is drawing erroneous conclusions based on stereotypes. This was the subject of a story in futurism.com, which told of a man of Chinese descent who flew into Mexico City from Los Angeles for a short visit. He rode with two Mexican Uber drivers on his trip, and when he returned to the U.S., he tested positive for coronavirus.
Uber learned from the Mexican health department that the drivers were carriers of the coronavirus, and suspended their Uber driving privileges for two weeks. In a further attempt to stop the virus from spreading, Uber suspended the accounts of the 240 passengers who had ridden with the drivers since the first encounter with the visitor from L.A.
There is ample evidence that people of Chinese descent are not the only ones who have been affected by coronavirus. As the CDC states in a March 2020 publication: “People of Asian descent including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American. Help stop fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.”
Drivers do, however, have the right to refuse a ride that could be dangerous, including picking up a rider who is obviously ill and taking the person to the ER. (By taking proper precautions, even this type of situation won’t necessarily harm you.)
Lyft’s driver assistance program
While Lyft openly expresses a promise of financial support for drivers, there are not many details about exactly how much help will be available and how it can be procured. The company’s statement reads as follows:
“We will provide funds to drivers should they be diagnosed with COVID-19 or put under individual quarantine by a public health agency. This helps support drivers financially when they can’t drive, while also protecting our riders’ health. These funds will be given to affected drivers who are identified to us by public health officials or who contact our support team to self-report and provide documentation that they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or put under individual quarantine by a public health agency. We will provide funds to affected drivers based on the rides they provided on the Lyft platform over the last four weeks.”
If you’re eligible for the support Lyft offers via this policy, contact Lyft support here.
Uber’s driver assistance programs
Uber’s policy is quite specific, which has its good and bad points. While you can know what to expect as an Uber driver, there are limits on the help that’s being offered. In general, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or if you are placed under quarantine by a public health official, or if you are asked to self-isolate by a licensed medical provider, you’re eligible for help. You can also get assistance if Uber restricts your account because you have the virus, or have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Also, to get financial help from Uber, you must have a record of driving for the company that shows you were active within 30 days before March 6, 2020. Then, Uber will examine your average daily earnings for the previous six months, and pay you that amount of money … but only for two weeks.
This policy might evolve as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, but in any case, it makes sense to take advantage of whatever assistance Uber is offering. You can read the company’s entire policy and report your situation to Uber here.
If you are still unable to work after two weeks of compensation, there are other ways to get financial support and cope during the coronavirus crisis.
How will this affect driver earnings?
Driver earnings will suffer due to the novel coronavirus. There is no getting around this.
Each market will see a different impact, but overall, drivers should expect to make less during this time.
Gridwise will be publishing a live tracker of driver earnings as soon as possible.
How are public health officials responding?
The CDC has essentially recommended that if at all possible, everyone, including drivers, stay at home.
This means avoiding any discretionary travel including going out to bars, restaurants, and nonessential stores.
How should drivers be responding?
Drivers, if you can, it’s time to put your cars in park and stay inside. It’s that plain and simple. However, we understand that for some drivers that’s just not a financially viable solution.
If you MUST be on the road, you need to protect yourself as much as possible. That means have as many cleaning and disinfecting supplies possible on deck and use them every chance you get.
That means after every single ride.
One driver sent us photos of their new setup:
Here are some other things to consider …
If a potential passenger appears to be gravely ill, you do not have to take the ride. Explain politely that you have to protect your future passengers as well as yourself from contracting whatever illness that person might have.
Stay Healthy and Strong
A strong immune system is the best defense you can have against any infection. Get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, avoid getting run down, and take whatever works to support your immunity. Some great immune system boosters include vitamin C, zinc, elderberry, echinacea, Cordyceps, and oil of oregano.
Keep in mind that these are not treatments; rather, they are herbal remedies that have been shown to keep the immune system healthy. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before adding new supplements to your diet.
Do. Not. Panic.
In the wise words of nineteenth-century writer Christian Nestell Bovee: “Panic is a sudden desertion of us, and a going over to the enemy of our imagination.” Although it is well known that panicking never accomplishes anything, it is common for panic to set in, especially at times of uncertainty.
Remember, as rideshare drivers, the best thing you can do—for you and your passengers—is to remain calm. Stay with your schedule as much as you can, and continue to offer riders a clean, safe, and friendly ride to wherever it is they need to go.
As we at Gridwise hear more about coronavirus and COVID-19, we’ll relay that information to you.