The ride-hailing companies will no longer require masks for either drivers or passengers. In an email to users, Uber wrote “The CDC order requiring masks while using rideshare platforms such as Uber is no longer in effect, and we’ve revised our covid-19 mask and front-seat policies accordingly.” The company has also rescinded its “no-front-seat” policy that required riders to sit in the back of the car to protect drivers, but it asked users to only use the front seat if there’s no more seats left in the back.
In its statement, Lyft announced it would similarly end its mask and front seat policies, saying “We know that everyone has different comfort levels, and anyone who wants to continue wearing a mask is encouraged to do so. As always, drivers or riders can decline to accept or cancel any ride they don’t wish to take.”
Though riders and drivers can cancel rides, health safety reasons will no longer appear as a reason for nixing a ride on the app.
Both companies made their announcements the morning of April 19, the day after a federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC’s mask mandate on planes and trains. In its statement, Uber said that the CDC still recommends mask wearing “if you have certain personal risk factors and/or high transmission levels in your area.” Lyft offered similar advice.
Both companies essentially said that if you feel uncomfortable, you can always cancel your trip, while not offering any advice what they should do if they have to reject a ride. Cancelling a ride in Uber or Lyft after a certain amount of time incurs a fee.
Neither company offered any solid advice for people who continue to fear contracting Covid, especially when they may have to argue with their potential driver or rider about mask wearing or else reject their ride entirely. Uber offered limited advice to its drivers and passengers that boils down to hoping that both parties end up on the same page regarding keeping each other safe. The company suggests “asking” riders for additional space, and that drivers and passengers should just open a window if either are starting to feel uncomfortable.
Uber also suggests that drivers cover the mouth and nose when sneezing, which is something most people learn in third grade, so if you’re not doing that, then Uber’s advice probably doesn’t land.
As far as Uber Eats goes, the company said that it’s on restaurants to ensure safe food packaging and sanitation for its packages, advising “that all food is properly sealed in tamper-evident packaging.”
There has already been friction between drivers and passengers before regarding mask requirements. Raven Baxter, the head of science-based pop culture site Dr. Raven the Science Maven, tweeted on April 15, four days before the mask requirement was dropped, that a driver repeatedly rolled up windows after she rolled them down for ventilation during a ride.
In follow up tweets, she said that Uber was “handling the situation pretty well behind the scenes.”
But confrontations like hers showcase the anxiety felt by both passengers and drivers, especially for those still concerned about covid as cases continue to rise during the spring months. It’s either a roll of the dice, or finding some other way to get to where you’re going where you can now be near-certain there won’t be people wearing masks.