Uber has announced that the company will be rolling out a plan to require drivers and riders to wear face coverings. On Sunday, CNN reported that executives approved the policy, but it isn’t completely rolled out. As part of the plan, Uber is developing technology to ensure drivers are wearing face masks before accepting trips. Uber’s head of safety communications Andrew Hasbun told CNN “Uber is focused on safety and proceeding with caution.” Although Uber has asked riders to stay home when they can, many drivers are still providing much-needed ride-sharing services. Is this new policy too little, too late?
Uber and its COVID-19 response
On April 9 Uber’s VP of Safety and Insurance Gus Fuldner posted this announcement on the Uber website:
“Drivers and delivery people are providing essential services around the world, from helping essential workers get around to delivering meals to people staying home. As they help our communities through this crisis, helping them stay safe is our priority.
Last week, we began shipping disinfectant sprays to some drivers. And beginning this week, we are distributing millions of ear-loop face masks to active drivers and delivery people around the world
Last week, we began shipping disinfectant sprays to some drivers. And beginning this week, we are distributing millions of ear-loop face masks to active drivers and delivery people around the world.”
Uber has been aware of the need for safety supplies for almost a month, but they are just now implementing policy to require face coverings. Uber has recommended that drivers disinfect their car and encouraged “riders and drivers to take steps to protect themselves.”
Will Uber’s policy stand up?
Early in April, the CDC began recommending that people wear face masks in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The guidelines were fairly vague and issued as an additional public health measure to reduce widespread transmission of the virus, but many businesses and municipalities jumped on the bandwagon and issued executive orders for citizens to wear face masks in public. Austin’s local order included face coverings be worn during rideshares. Still, many people aren’t wearing face coverings in public. One Oklahoma city, Stillwater, had to revoke its mandate for face coverings after some businesses were threatened with physical violence and subjected to verbal abuse.
Recently, Governor Abbott released orders that would allow businesses in the state to reopen. Although face masks are recommended, they are not mandated. Abbott made it clear that his executive order supersedes any local order, but there are those that disagree. According to Abbott, Texas citizens cannot be fined or punished for not wearing face coverings, even if local orders mandate it.
It will be interesting to see how Uber’s policy stands up in the face of the American public.