Uber asks the CDC to prioritize vaccinating drivers

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On December 3, 2020, Uber sent a letter to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).

The purpose of the letter was to request that Uber’s “drivers and delivery people” be designated as “non-health essential workers” or “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security. That agency’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has an essential critical infrastructure worker category that includes taxi, delivery services, transportation network providers (including rideshare drivers), and truck drivers.

If rideshare drivers and delivery people are placed in this category for allocating the COVID-19 vaccine, Uber’s workers would receive early access to vaccinations. 

What does this mean? We’ve dug into the available information so we can answer that question, as well as some others you might have, such as:

What does it mean to be a non-health essential worker?

If you worked as a rideshare driver or delivery driver during the early days of the pandemic, you’ll remember there were very strict stay-at-home orders, and in some cases, curfews and lockdowns. 

While you were driving and/or delivering, you were exempted from these orders because of the nature of your job. Some companies even issued letters for drivers to carry around stating that they were, in fact, performing essential duties.

Drivers were, and still are, considered “non-health essential workers” because you often transport front-line essential workers, such as first responders, hospital workers, and caregivers to and from their work locations. 

Delivery people provide meals, groceries, pharmacy items, and other goods to those who are confined to their homes while sheltering in place, or for those who are sick and avoiding contact with others. 

Delivery people also play a key role in helping restaurants and other establishments stay in business, by making deliveries while customers are unable to enjoy their goods and services in person. 

Because rideshare drivers and delivery people contribute to serving workers on the front lines, and help people to stay at home rather than go out to eat or shop, they/you are essential to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and stemming the pandemic.

Why is Uber making this request to the CDC?

We can see several possible reasons Uber has decided to make this move. 

First, they might be genuinely concerned about the health of their drivers and delivery people, as well as the safety of their customers. The nature of both rideshare and delivery is such that some human contact is involved. There is always a risk of passengers, delivery customers, and Uber’s workers spreading the virus among themselves. It may be a relief to the company’s management to know drivers are safe.

Yet, it isn’t a common belief that Uber is interested merely in the welfare of drivers and delivery people. Could there be other reasons for the company’s desire to protect its workers with a vaccine? Perhaps. Here are some other possible motives for Uber’s plea to the CDC:

  • The advantage over other forms of travel: If rideshare drivers are vaccinated, customers will feel safer using rideshare services as opposed to public transportation and will likely choose it over public transportation.
  • Fewer COVID costs: In the letter, Uber mentions spending $19 million to help some 50,000 workers recover wages lost due to contracting COVID, and $50 million passing out masks and other supplies to drivers and delivery people. As drivers are vaccinated, Uber may need to spend far less on these items.
  • Limited liability: This issue is still not entirely settled by the legal system; i.e., companies are currently not exempted from liability when people get the virus while using their services. Vaccinated drivers could help protect them from liability for such claims.

Will I be required to get a vaccine to work in rideshare or delivery with Uber?

No one knows yet. There is much speculation about if, where, and how people will be required to get a COVID vaccine in general, and not just in the case of Uber’s rideshare drivers and delivery people. Some people wonder if we may need to have proof of vaccination in order to attend a concert or ball game, or to fly on an airplane. Again, we just don’t know.

To date, no rideshare company has signaled that they will require their drivers to get vaccines.

It’s unclear how this situation will pan out. For now, we wanted to pass along what we know, and invite you to share what you think about it. 

Drop us a note in the comments, or get in touch via email. We look forward to hearing from you, and hope you’re staying healthy—and making some money too.

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While you’re thinking about all the information and issues surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, remember what Gridwise can do to help you keep track of your earnings. Our brand-new automatic earning tracker feature allows you to track all the money you make, from every app you use. Then you’ll be able to see all the information in gorgeous graphics like these.

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