Uber is giving public officials data on drivers and passengers who have come into contact with someone infected with COVID-19. As reported by Reuters, the free service provides health departments with information about who used Uber and when, helping agencies urge people into quarantine when necessary.
Using a private website for public health departments, officials can sort information based on names and trip receipts, then notify Uber of any matches. Anyone with a confirmed infection is automatically blocked from using the ride-hailing service for at least 14 days.
Earlier this month, the ride-hailing platform extended its “No Mask, No Ride” policy indefinitely, requiring all drivers and riders to cover their nose and mouth while in the vehicle, or risk losing access to the app. As part of this new regime, Uber is also providing virus-tracking data, though, as Reuters pointed out, few states have put it to use. “This data could be potentially life-saving in cities where many people use those services,” Mieka Smart, an epidemiology professor at Michigan State University, told Reuters.
Based on Uber’s guidelines for public health authorities (PHAs), the company may share user information if it “has a good-faith belief that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury” requires immediate disclosure. And novel coronavirus seems as good as time as any.
Rival Lyft, meanwhile, is rolling out more health and safety initiatives amidst the global pandemic—starting with vehicle partitions to help maintain distance between drivers and riders. Some chauffeurs in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Denver have already received the clear screens, with more being handed out in Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Lyft aims to provide 50 percent ride coverage in 30 markets and hand out free vehicle dividers to 60,000 drivers in the coming months.
“By prioritizing the wellbeing of our drivers, our entire community gains extra peace of mind,” Angie Westbrock, VP of global operations and head of Lyft’s COVID-19 Response Task Force, said in a statement. “We’re setting the bar for health and safety in rideshare and will continue to expand our programs and products to continue raising that bar.”