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Is it safe to take an Uber during the pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in innumerable ways. When we aren’t staying at home, we’re being as careful as possible when we go outside, remaining six feet apart from each other and wearing face masks.

Lockdown restrictions are slowly easing up all over the U.S., but COVID-19 is far from gone. Things that we once took for granted as relatively safe activities, like eating in a crowded restaurant or going to the beach, now require extra measures to ensure our safety and the safety of those around us.

How we travel is one more thing that has changed in the midst of the pandemic. If you’ve been leaving your home more as the economy has slowly opened back up, you may have found yourself wondering just how safe it is to use a ride-sharing service like Uber. Is there a risk of catching COVID-19 if you order an Uber?

Driving yourself is safer than taking an Uber

Ridesharing services have implemented new safety rules to protect passengers, as Sandra Kesh, M.D., told Good Housekeeping. Those safety measures include discontinuing shared rides and encouraging riders to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, and avoid riding if possible — especially if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Uber now requires drivers to provide photographic evidence that they are wearing masks when they start their shifts, and has restricted passengers to only sitting in the rear row of the vehicle.

That being said, Kesh said that the safest thing to do is to avoid ridesharing services (and taxis) as much as possible. Sitting in a car is going to be risky regardless of the precautions passengers and drivers take as there is no way to maintain a distance of six feet inside a vehicle and there is a risk of coming into contact with airborne droplets.

“I think with some scenarios, it’s kind of too soon to get back to normal — and this is one of them, unfortunately,” said Kesh. If you need to go somewhere by car, Kesh said it’s safest to have a friend or relative drive you because you’ll likely have a better idea of their health and if any potentially ill passengers have been in the car. You could also consider renting a car, or getting to your destination by bicycle if possible.

If you're taking an Uber, take extra precautions

If you can’t avoid calling an Uber, there are some things you can do to lessen your risk of exposure. As always, wear a mask and keep your hands clean. Also be careful of touching surfaces you don’t need to.

“It [is] always safest to assume that any surface may be contaminated ― door handle, seat, etc.,” Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology, told HuffPost. “Riders should clean their hands with hand sanitizer upon getting in the car and should not touch their eyes, face, or mouth when in the car so no eating or drinking. Consider wearing sunglasses or glasses as a physical reminder to avoid touching the eyes and for added protection against any droplets that could be in the air.”

Infectious diseases physician Krutika Kuppalli also recommended putting down the window if possible in order to increase ventilation and prevent respiratory droplets from staying in the car’s air for too long.

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