The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic on March 11. Leading up to the announcement, companies across the U.S. have sent workers home. But what are companies like Uber, Lyft, and Postmates doing to protect their customers and drivers?
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause the common cold and respiratory illnesses. “COVID-19” is short-hand for “Coronavirus Disease 2019.” It is the official name given by the World Health Organization to the newly identified coronavirus. COVID-19 spreads through person to person contact.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Shortness of Breath
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Older adults or people with pre-existing health conditions are most at risk of severe illness from the disease.
Delivery and rideshare companies are continuously updating their contractors and their customers. Below, we’ve gathered the most recent updates from top companies:
Delivery services are taking on a vital role as people self-quarantine across the country. In order to protect their delivery drivers, Postmates announced a new, optional feature on their app.
Customers can now select a delivery method based on their preferred level of contact. The option becomes available once a customer has reached the end of the food-ordering process. Instead of “deliver to my door” or “meet me outside,” customers can now select “leave at my door.” The option can only be chosen by the customer, not the driver. As a driver, this means you might deliver food to doorsteps or building lobbies more often. “We hope that by introducing this feature, we can limit unnecessary person-to-person contact,” Postmates announced.
Fleet Relief Fund
Postmates also announced a new fund designed to support drivers in markets affected by COVID-19. The Fleet Relief Fund offers credit to workers impacted by the virus who are experiencing unanticipated medical costs. While the credit is designed to help workers pay for preventative care or a medical emergency, Postmates notes that the credit is, “yours to apply as you need for your personal circumstances.”
Fleet Relief Fund Eligibility Requirements:
- You live in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, or New Jersey.
- You have completed a Postmates delivery within the last 14 days
- You have a Starship Health Savings Account
What is a Starship Health Savings Account?
A health savings account (HSA) is an optional benefit that Postmates offers to its workers through a partnership with Starship. Basically, workers with HSA eligible health coverage can choose to stash money tax-free in a health savings account. Starship can then invest that money to help your account grow. Whenever you have a health-related expense, like a co-pay, you can use your Starship card to pay for it. Overall, it’s a separate savings account designed specifically for health-related expenses.
Accessing Postmates' Fleet Relief Fund
In order to access the Fleet Relief Fund, you must apply for credit. If you are eligible, Postmates will credit your Fleet account on the Friday of the week you submit your request. After that, you will have the option to move those funds to your health savings account. The money you receive from the Fleet Relief Fund will be tax-eligible, but the money you deposit into your health savings account will be tax-free. Postmates has not announced how they will calculate total credit distributed from the Fleet Relief Fund to individual Postmates workers.
Uber established a dedicated team available 24/7 to work with public health authorities in response to the virus. If drivers or riders “have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19,” Uber may suspend their accounts. Additionally, Drivers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been “asked to self-isolate by a public health official” will be able to receive financial assistance for up to two weeks while their account is suspended. The rideshare app is planning to implement this benefit world-wide, according to Reuters. An Uber spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company had already compensated drivers quarantined in Mexico and Britain. However, Uber has not released information regarding how drivers will be compensated if they are quarantined.
Other Actions Taken by Uber:
- Increasing the Availability of Disinfectants: “Supplies are very limited,” Uber’s press release states. The rideshare app is partnering with manufacturers and distributors to source disinfectants and distribute them to to drivers working in cities “with the greatest need.”
- Altering UberEats Food Delivery Methods: Similar to other food delivery apps, Uber alerted customers that they can request to have food left at their doorstep to avoid person-to-person contact. Customers received notices via email stating that they have the option to add delivery instructions to their food order.
Uber wasn’t the only company to establish a task force. Lyft developed an internal group dedicated to working with drivers and public health officials. If Lyft is notified that a driver or rider has tested positive for COVID-19, the rideshare app will temporarily suspend their account until they have been cleared by medical professionals. “In this event, we will also follow guidance from the CDC and local health officials to identify other individuals who may have been impacted,” Lyft stated in a press release.
Lyft Driver Support Fund
Lyft will “provide funds” to drivers diagnosed with COVID-19 or put under individual quarantine by a public health agency. There are two ways to qualify for financial support. The first way is if a member of a public health agency reaches out directly to Lyft to notify the company that a driver has been exposed to the virus. If this does not occur, a driver can contact Lyft Support and offer documentation proving they were diagnosed with the disease or put under individual quarantine by a health agent.
Lyft has yet to release information about how drivers will be paid or how much they are eligible to receive. Lyft’s website notes that the company will “provide funds to affected drivers based on the rides they provided on the Lyft platform over the last four weeks.”
Other Actions Taken by Lyft:
- Distributor Partnerships: Lyft announced a partnership with EO products to distribute over 200,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to drivers. Drivers will be alerted when the supplies are ready for pick-up in individual cities, Lyft explained.
Check out the rest of Lyft’s COVID-19 updates here.
Instacart assembled a task force of its own in response to the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. The taskforce, called the Instacart Health and Safety Panel, designed a set of guidelines for Instacart shoppers. The guidelines offer comprehensive health and safety information that Instacart would like its shoppers to review. Beyond guidelines, Instacart implemented several policies to respond to the virus.
Sick Pay for In-Store Shoppers
All part-time employees now have access to paid time (PTO) off if ill. Instacart initially only offered this policy in certain states. Similar to other PTO plans, Instacart’s sick-pay will accrue based on the hours your work. For every 30 hours worked, shoppers will accrue one hour of PTO. Shoppers can earn up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick-pay per year. In its announcement, Instacart notified shoppers that sick-pay accrual has been back-dated from the start of the year. Any hours already worked in 2020 will be eligible.
Extended Pay for Part-Time and Full-Time Shoppers Affected by COVID-19
Instacart is offering 14 days of pay in addition to sick-pay for any employee diagnosed with COVID-19 or instructed to undergo self-isolation by a state, local, or public health authority. This assistance “will be available for up to 30 days” to ensure that Instacart is fully supporting its community. In a press release, Instacart noted that it would be sending more information about the extended pay policy directly to shoppers. Make sure you check your email for updates and eligibility requirements.
Leave at My Door Delivery
Instacart was already testing this new feature, but bumped up the release date due to the spread of COVID-19. For the first time ever, customers can instruct shoppers to leave groceries in front of their residence. The original goal was to allow customers the flexibility to schedule deliveries while they weren’t home. However, with the spread of COVID-19, the new feature may help limit contact between shoppers and customers.
Here’s how it works: Customers proceed through their regular grocery shopping experience in-app. Once they reach the delivery options, they can select “Leave at My Door Delivery.” Choosing this feature will enable them to input information like an apartment number or gate code. When dropping off the groceries, shoppers will be required to snap a photo as proof of delivery.
Doordash announced a COVID-19 Financial Assistance Program on March 12. Under the new program, dashers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or put under quarantine by a health agency official may qualify for up to two weeks of financial assistance.
Doordash Financial Assistance Program Eligibility
In addition to a positive diagnosis or quarantine instructions from a health agent, you must also meet a few other requirements to be eligible for Doordash’s Financial Assistance Program:
- Been active on the platform within 60 days
- Completed at least 30 deliveries in the last 30 days
- Account is in good standing
In order to receive financial assistance, you must submit a claim. Doordash’s specialized team will review it and respond. Remember, you may be instructed to submit additional documentation by email.
Note: Once you file a claim, your Doordash account will be suspended. You must file an appeal to have it re-instated.
Financial assistance will be calculated using your earnings during the three months leading up to your date of infection or quarantine. Essentially, Doordash is offering drivers their average weekly pay for up to two weeks.
Other Actions Taken by Doordash:
- Updating Food Delivery Method: Like most delivery apps, Doordash allows customers to add their own delivery instructions. Customers will specify where they want their food left in the “delivery instructions” field. Doordash sent an email to customers urging them to text their deasher to confirm no-contact delivery instructions. If you receive a text, you’ll want to respond as soon as possible. That way, you can reassure your customer that you are aware of the instructions.
CDC Recommendations for Staying Healthy
If you’re worried about getting sick, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone. On March 6, Gridwise released results of a rideshare driver survey which found that close to 43% of drivers were “very concerned” about contracting coronavirus while driving.
The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is avoiding exposure. According to the CDC, there are several preventative measures that may help reduce transmission of the disease. We’ve summarized a few below. You can find a full list along with other COVID-19 updates here.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with anti-bacterial soap. If you cannot wash your hands, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, hands, and nose as much as possible.
Put distance between yourself and other people. Avoid being in close quarters with people who are sick. Avoid events with large groups.
Stay home if you’re not feeling well. If you are in public, remember to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue while sneezing or coughing. If you do not have a tissue available, cough into your elbow. Dispose of tissues in the trash and wash your hands immediately for at least 20 seconds.
Clean and disinfect surfaces you touch often. Some frequently touched surfaces include: Door handles, steering wheels, countertops, keyboards, light switches, toilets, and faucets.
As the U.S. response to COVID-19 increases, so will the response from companies. It’s important to stay updated on rideshare and delivery best practices to protect yourself and your customers. Keep in contact with your ridesare/delivery company if you aren’t feeling well. One way to stay up-to-date is to make sure you are subscribed to your company’s email updates. Awareness is always the first step to ensuring health and safety.
The information above is current as of March 12, 2020. Please visit rideshare/delivery websites directly for the most up-to-date information on their handling of the situation. This article is not intended to give medical advice. The CDC, or your physician, are the best sources for advice regarding your health and safety.
The on-demand grocery startup Instacart said Monday that it is planning to hire 300,000 “full-service shoppers,” over the next three months due to a huge spike in demand spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Instacart’s goal is to increase their workforce by more than double.
Not only are these new non-contact deliveries following the guidelines set forth by the CDC regarding the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, but they should allow for easier and faster deliveries, allowing drivers to earn more while staying safe.
Drivers been reporting that delivery gigs have picked up drastically and are paying quite well, due to people stocking up and not wanting to leave their homes. Maybe switching to delivery is the way to go while we wait for things to blow over.
Elianna S is a freelance writer specializing in legal and technological subjects. Her educational background is politics and American Studies.