Uber is aiming to make it easier for its drivers to figure out if they've been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The ride-hailing company said Thursday that it's partnering with telemedicine service Ro to give free assessments to all US-based Uber drivers and delivery people.
Ro already has free COVID-19 assessments for anyone who wants them, but with its partnership with Uber there will be a dedicated portal for drivers to use.
"We want to encourage all independent workers, whether or not they work with Uber, to take full advantage of Ro's free COVID telehealth assessment," an Uber spokesman told CNET.
Gig workers — like Uber and Lyft drivers and delivery people for Instacart, DoorDash and Postmates — are considered essential workers. This means they can continue to work during the pandemic, delivering food to people in quarantine and transporting medical workers to and from the hospital.
Because gig workers are still working, they're more at risk of contracting COVID-19. Thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers have been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus, according to sick leave payouts from the companies, and at least five drivers have died from the disease.
Certain drivers' groups, like the Independent Drivers Guild based in New York, have been pushing Uber and Lyft for weeks to provide drivers with free telemedicine benefits. Because gig workers are classified as independent contractors, rather than employees, they don't qualify for company health insurance or sick leave. In an effort to address this, the Independent Drivers Guild has been providing its members with its own telehealth services through a partnership with the nonprofit Black Car Fund.
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On Tuesday, Lyft announced it was partnering with digital health provider One Medical. Through this partnership, Lyft drivers can get a free 30-day trial membership to One Medical's digital platform. In certain cases, and in specific cities, One Medical will provide COVID-19 testing. After the trial membership is up, drivers must pay for the service.
When asked for comment, Lyft directed CNET to its blog post on the partnership.
Telemedicine has surged during the pandemic. Several companies, such as Callondoc, Galileo and HealthTap, offer free and discounted virtual check-ups. Ro is focused on providing free telehealth assessments to people who think they may have COVID-19 symptoms. Its assessments go over people's symptoms, travel history and recent interactions.
With Ro, if the system indicates that someone may have the virus, the company will connect them with a health care provider for a free virtual consultation. The provider will make recommendations but cannot diagnose or test for COVID-19. People don't have to pay for any part of this process.
"During these difficult times, we want to help everyone get access to high-quality advice and resources for COVID-19," a Ro spokesperson said. "Telehealth can help keep patients and healthcare workers safe and reserve in-person care for those most in need."
As part of Uber's partnership with Ro, the ride-hailing company is contacting all of its drivers and delivery people to let them know about the service. It's also created a joint website with Ro specifically for its workers. The company said that the assessments with Ro are confidential and won't be disclosed to Uber. It added that it won't receive any personal information on drivers' health or symptoms.
Uber said it first piloted the partnership with drivers in Michigan, Louisiana and Georgia and within the first week more than 500 assessments were started. So, it decided to expand the program to all drivers across the US.