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Ride-Hail And Delivery Apps Like Uber And Postmates Are Tight-Lipped About What They'll Do When The Coronavirus Hits The United States

In China, drivers became folk heroes — will the same happen in the US?

Posted on February 28, 2020, at 6:06 p.m. ET

Eric Baradat / Getty Images

Despite CDC warnings to prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, multiple companies, including Amazon, Lyft, and DoorDash, declined to share specifics about their plans for an outbreak or their communication with workers, including whether they would pause services to slow down the disease's spread, compensate sick employees, or provide workers with safety gear.

As the novel coronavirus spreads, delivery and ride-hail services could emerge as vectors of the disease — or of medical supplies and hope for isolated people. But the companies that did share information remained vague about their plans.

Delivery workers and ride-hail drivers are often contractors or freelancers whose livelihoods depend on interacting with hundreds of people throughout the course of the day.

There are already reports of some Uber drivers refusing to pick up passengers at the airport.

"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," Nate, an Uber driver in Las Vegas told Business Insider this week. "I typically Lysol the car ... after I get anyone in the car coughing."

In China, as the government locked down cities, food delivery drivers became folk heroes, offering lifelines to people stuck inside their homes. The food delivery app Meituan experienced so many orders that it had a shortage of workers and experimented in Beijing’s Shunyi district with delivering food via driverless vehicles.

On Friday, Amazon asked all its employees to defer nonessential travel, including in the US. But it’s still unclear how that will affect delivery workers.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to popular delivery and ride-hail apps to find out what kinds of precautions are being put in place to mitigate the virus’s spread. This post will be updated as we hear back.

Postmates

A spokesperson for the delivery app told BuzzFeed News that at the moment it will be operating normally.

"We have shared precautionary CDC guidance with our Postmates; and will continue to encourage employees, merchants and consumers to follow preventative measures,” the spokesperson said. “We are tracking the situation closely and will help provide the resources necessary to mitigate increased risks."

Uber

Uber is currently encouraging both drivers and riders to follow the guidance of local authorities to help prevent the spread of the virus. A spokesperson said it is in close contact with local public health organizations and will continue to follow their recommendations.

“We are always working to help ensure the safety of our employees and everyone on the Uber platform, and we continue to be concerned by the ongoing spread of coronavirus," a spokesperson said. "We have formed a dedicated global team of Uber operations, security and safety executives, guided by the advice of a consulting public health expert, to respond as needed in each market where we operate around the world.”

Grubhub

A Grubhub spokesperson described the coronavirus as a “complex and fast-moving situation" and said the company is waiting to see how things progress.

“We are focused on prioritizing the health and safety of our drivers, diners, restaurant partners and employees during this challenging time,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely, including assessing and analyzing the potential impact on our business.”

Lyft

A Lyft spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, "We are monitoring the coronavirus situation closely. There is no indication of a unique risk to members of the Lyft community. However, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance to prepare for further spread of the virus, we have established an internal task force to ensure we are prepared to take action if needed."


Amazon

Did not respond as of press time.

TaskRabbit

Did not respond as of press time.

DoorDash

Did not respond as of press time.

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