Uber drivers putting own health at risk during COVID-19 threat

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - With the threat of COVID-19 people are being asked to practice social distancing. It's hard to be six feet away from someone in a car. Uber drivers are doing their best to stay safe, but they need more help.

"It's just been rough to make money at all," said Paul, an Uber driver who said he has lost 70 percent of his income because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Paul and Brandon have both been driving for Uber for more than a year. Neither one wanted to appear on camera because they're worried Uber might deactivate them for speaking out. Right now times have never been worse.

"I'm struggling right now just to pay auto insurance. I'm afraid I might lose my car, my home," Brandon said.

Brandon has adjusted his schedule to try and earn as much money as possible. He's driving 16 hours a day seven days a week which exposes him to more and more riders.

"We don't know who we have in our cars," he said. "If they're sick or they're not sick, sometimes we pick people up from the hospital and that's scary."

Brandon and Paul are doing their best to disinfect. They said after every ride they're wiping down the interior of their cars to make the environment as safe as possible. But the wipes have to come from somewhere. And they said the wipes aren't coming from their employer.

"The hub here for Uber has been closed for months now. They're not helping us here in Reno at all," Paul said.

Uber's website has a list of precautions the company says it's taking with COVID-19 in mind. On its site the ride share service states "we may temporarily suspend the accounts of riders or drivers confirmed to have contracted or been exposed to COVID 19." Those suspensions aren't happening in real time according to Brandon.

"There's been one person out here in the state of Nevada that contracted COVID-19 off a cruise ship. An Uber driver picked that person up. Uber didn't reach out to none of the Nevada drivers to let us know that that happened in case we had that person in our car."

In a time of social distancing do your best to be sanitary so everyone can get where they need to go safely.

"When you get in the car use proper etiquette," Brandon said of the measures people can take. "If you sneeze, cough, things of that nature, just cover it up."

Paul said tipping drivers is also helpful.

"Leaving a dollar or two dollars (for us is helpful). We're not asking for the world here. Just throw us a bone every once in a while."

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019