Uber riders, drivers must wear coronavirus face masks beginning May 18

Uber will require riders and drivers to wear face masks beginning May 18 to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the rideshare company said Wednesday.

Competitor Lyft announced similar requirements for its riders and drivers on May 7.

"As countries reopen, Uber is focused on safety and proceeding with caution," an Uber spokesperson previously told FOX Business about the mask requirement.

Uber said it is updating its app next Monday with COVID-19 safety protocols in compliance with state and local virus regulations, the company announced during a press call with reporters.

Updates include "a door-to-door safety experience" based on three principals, including "expert knowledge, accountability for all and adaptable technology"; several video "education modules" related to COVID-19 safety, such as "how to wear a mask"; and mandatory safety checklists that drivers and riders must complete before planning or requesting a ride.

Drivers will be required to take a photo of themselves wearing a mask; if a driver takes a photo without a mask, the app's software will identify the problem and ask the driver to retake a photo with a mask.

If a rider is not wearing a mask at the pickup location, drivers can cancel the trip and indicate that the reason behind the cancelation was the passenger's lack of a mask or face cover. If riders violate this rule, they will be notified of Uber's requirements. Riders can also indicate whether their drivers were not wearing a mask on the app.

Uber lost $2.9 billion in the first quarter as shelter-in-place orders kept many Americans indoors. The company said last week it is laying off 3,700 full-time employees, 14 percent of its staff.

The updated app will also include "end-to-end" timelines for drivers and riders that will track their experiences from the time they open the app to the time they close it.

Uber suspended its "pool" rides in mid-March to enforce social distancing.

Last month, Uber announced it would ship tens of millions of earloop face masks to active drivers and delivery people to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated guidance.

Drivers in major cities and states -- such as New York, Los Angeles, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. -- have already implemented face-mask mandates, and Uber has prioritized personal protective equipment (PPE) shipments to drivers in these areas. More will be distributed throughout the rest of the country as supplies become available.

Outside the U.S., millions of masks have been distributed throughout Europe and other regions. Uber has also been shipping disinfectant to drivers in hard-hit markets.

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