Uber to require drivers and riders to wear face masks starting Monday

Uber responds to the coronavirus

Luis Hidalgo, right, watches as Joel Rios installs a plastic barrier in his car to protect himself and his Uber passengers from COVID-19 in the Bronx. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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Uber is preparing riders and drivers alike for a “new normal” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting Monday, the ride-hailing giant will require both parties to wear face masks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“For more than two months, Uber has been urging riders to stay home, for their safety and the safety of drivers who continue to make essential trips,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a statement.

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“Now, as cities begin to reopen and people start moving again, Uber is proceeding with caution and safety top of mind.”

Before a driver can go online, they must confirm they have taken specific safety measures via a new “Go Online Checklist” (e.g. “I’ve sanitized my vehicle today,” “I wash or sanitize my hands regularly”).

The company has rolled out new technology that will verify a driver is wearing a mask by asking them to take a selfie.

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The mask mandate will remain in effect through the end of June, after which point it will be reassessed based on local public health needs.

Under the new safety initiative, riders must agree to sit in the backseat with the windows open for ventilation. Front-seat passengers will not be allowed, and the maximum number of passengers for an UberX ride will decrease from four to three.

On their end, riders must confirm they too have taken certain safety precautions, such as wearing a face-covering and washing or sanitizing their hands.

Both drivers and riders are encouraged to cancel trips without penalty if they don’t feel safe, including if the driver or rider isn’t wearing a face mask.

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Uber said it has allocated $50 million to purchase personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, as well as hand sanitizer and other disinfectants. More than 23 million masks have been secured for Uber’s drivers around the world, according to the company.

Cleaning supplies and protective equipment were shipped directly to drivers’ homes. Uber will also hand out supplies in person and provide reimbursements for such supplies in cases where shipping is less accessible.

Uber said it has also worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to compile safety tips and recommendations tailored toward ride-sharing.

“As we move into the new normal, it’s our goal to encourage this same sense of shared responsibility,” Khosrowshahi said. “Uber, riders, drivers, delivery people and restaurants — we all have a role to play in keeping each other safe and healthy.”

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