Lyft joins Uber in requiring drivers and riders to wear face masks

This is something drivers have been requesting to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
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Lyft said it's ramping up its efforts to keep drivers and passengers from spreading the novel coronavirus. The ride-hailing company said Thursday it'll now require people using its service to wear face masks or other face coverings while on rides.

The move comes as cities across the US prepare to ease shelter-in-places orders and more people will likely be out and about. On Monday, Lyft rival Uber began requiring the use of face coverings.

"Being part of the Lyft community today must come with a shared responsibility," Angie Westbrock, Lyft's vice president of global operations and head of its COVID-19 response task force, said in an email. "By wearing a mask, riders and drivers can show that they care and want to protect the other person in the car." 

Wearing masks while on the job has now become mandatory for essential workers in many cities across the US, including New York and Los Angeles. And when not required, it's strongly recommended. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that all people should wear masks in public places to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Many ride-hail drivers say they've had a difficult time during the pandemic, seeing their earnings plummet or getting infected with the virus. At least five Uber drivers are known to have died from COVID-19. A scroll through social media sites shows hundreds of drivers and passengers saying they wished face masks were required on rides, since being in a confined space with a stranger can create more risk of spreading the disease.

Lyft said it's been distributing face coverings to drivers in select cities across the country. But drivers say that sometimes the items are in short supply. The way it works is Lyft representatives hand out the masks to drivers from a specific location on certain days of the week. Drivers are limited to one mask a week and supplies are available only on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lyft's mask requirement comes as part of its new "personal health certification" program. Under this program, every rider and driver must self-certify that they'll wear face masks throughout the ride and are symptom-free of COVID-19. Other mandates in the program are to keep vehicles clean, sanitize hands frequently and prohibit passengers from sitting in the front seat. Lyft also recommends keeping windows rolled down when possible.

"The Personal Health Certification will give both sides -- riders and drivers -- extra peace of mind," Westbrock said.