Rideshare company Lyft has announced it will expand its business to include the delivery of food and medical supplies, as the global outbreak of coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, requires many people to stay at home. Grocery and other delivery services are struggling to keep up with the surge in demand as people order supplies from the internet rather than going to stores.
On its website, Lyft announced it would support the delivery of medical supplies in areas of the U.S. most affected by the pandemic. “During a period of shelter-in-place mandates and self-quarantine recommendations, governments and healthcare organizations can use Lyft’s on-demand network to bring life-sustaining medical supplies and test kits to the elderly, those with chronic diseases, and other vulnerable populations,” the company wrote. “Our healthcare team is working with government agencies and other businesses to identify individuals in need. To protect drivers and those receiving the deliveries, these drop-offs will be contactless.”
Additional measures the company is implementing include partnering with government organizations to deliver meals for school children who would normally receive free meals at school and for elderly people who are stuck at home. It will also provide non-emergency medical transportation for those who are eligible for Medicaid.
In order to protect both riders and drivers from infection, any rider or driver who tests positive for coronavirus will be temporarily suspended from using the service, and the company also suspended carpool options this week. Lyft will provide some funds to drivers who are taken ill.
However, some drivers say that the provisions made by the company are not enough. Rideshare drivers from both Uber and Lyft staged a protest outside Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco this week, calling for drivers to be classified as employees and not as independent contractors. Doing so would make them eligible for benefits such as paid sick leave and disability benefits. “We are workers, we are entitled to our rights and safety,” Uber driver Rashed Alsenea said to The Guardian. “We cannot work from home, our car is where we work.”
The concern among many drivers is that they cannot afford to stop working, even as they worry about contracting the coronavirus and transmitting it to their friends or family.