As the Trump administration encourages Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, the ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft have decided to suspend the features that allow users to travel with strangers going in the same direction.
Business Insider reports that the decision to suspend the carpooling options, respectively known as UberPool and Lyft Line, was made to promote social-distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak. The carpooling feature previously allowed groups of strangers to travel in the same direction for cheap.
“The health and safety of the Lyft community is our top priority, and we’re dedicated to doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19,” a representative told Business Insider. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and base our actions on official guidance.”
In a statement reported by The Verge, an Uber executive explained in a statement that the decision is intended to help “flatten the curve,” a phenomenon that epidemiologists say can help reduce mortality rates during epidemics.
“Our goal is to help flatten the curve of community spread in the cities we serve. With that in mind, we are suspending the Uber Pool service in the United States and Canada,” Andrew Macdonald, senior VP of Uber Rides and Platform, said in a statement. “We remain in close contact with local leaders and will continue to work with them to discourage non-essential travel.”
According to Vox, flattening the curve involves enacting isolation strategies, including self-quarantines and social distancing, to delay the peak of the epidemic and prevent the virus from spreading as quickly.
By stunting the transmission rate of the virus, society at-large can prevent doctors and hospitals from being inundated with patients all at once, increasing the chances of patients receiving treatment and the odds of lowering the mortality rate, reports the news agency.
In a Twitter post Sunday morning, Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist and author of “The Rules Of Contagion,” elaborated on how the math of preventing community spread works out in a simulation.
As Kucharski explains in the simulation, when one sick patient infects an average of 1.25 persons every five days instead of 2.5 persons every five days, the total number of new cases over a single month decreases from roughly 244 new cases to 4 new cases.
Early in outbreak, each COVID-19 case infects ~2.5 others on average. There’s ~5 days between one infection and next, so we’d expect one case to lead to 2.5^6 = 244 more cases in a month. If we can halve transmission, so each infects 1.25 others instead, we’d expect 4 more cases.
— Adam Kucharski (@AdamJKucharski) March 15, 2020
According to The New York Times, the United States has diagnosed a total of 5,587 case as of Tuesday evening, and approximately 900 of those cases were diagnosed on Monday.
The Center for Disease Control has said that senior citizens and people with serious chronic medical conditions have a higher risk of becoming “very sick” from the coronavirus. Furthermore, the CDC recommends that everyone follow these precautions:
- Clean your hands often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
- Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
- Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
- Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)