NYU and the Independent Drivers Guild working together to mitigate COVID-19 risk for drivers and passengers

A female rideshare driver sits in the driver's seat with a mask on.
Michele Dottin, a rideshare driver and IDG member, participated in COVID-19 safety trainings developed by NYU GPH and implemented by IDG. Dottin will help train other drivers on safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect drivers and passengers. Photo: Lucia Girande, NYU GPH

New York University’s School of Global Public Health (NYU GPH) is teaming up with the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) to increase the safety of rideshare drivers and passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NYU GPH environmental and occupational health experts are developing training programs and targeted protocols focused on evidence-based COVID-19 safety practices and tailored for rideshare drivers and passengers. The IDG—which represents more than 80,000 for-hire drivers for Uber, Lyft, and Via in New York City and advocates for more than 200,000 drivers across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—will work with its members to implement, monitor, and evaluate the program.   

“Drivers for ride-hailing companies are on the front line, getting people to work and critical appointments, and coming into contact with numerous passengers each day. Drivers need to be protected, and passengers need to know that with safety practices implemented, COVID-19 risks can be minimized,” said Jack Caravanos, clinical professor of environmental public health sciences at NYU GPH and the project’s director. “For instance, we conducted a small pilot study that demonstrated that opening a car’s windows for a minute while moving can effectively reduce airborne particles.”

Jack Caravanos does an air quality test in the back seat of a rideshare vehicle. A driver sits in the front seat wearing a mask.

NYU GPH Professor Jack Caravanos conducts an air quality test in the backseat of a rideshare vehicle driven by Michele Dottin. Caravanos is working with IDG to develop COVID-19 safety training for rideshare drivers. Photo: Lucia Girande, NYU GPH

“Passengers must have confidence that drivers are providing the safest possible ride or they won’t return to rideshare, and drivers need to know the steps to take to protect themselves and their riders,” said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the IDG. “We need the cooperation of Uber, Lyft, Via, and traditional black car companies to fulfill our goal of safe rides for all. We look forward to working with NYU School of Global Public Health to develop this safe ride program because knowledge is power, and we need to empower drivers with the information and resources they need to operate safely in this unprecedented environment.”  

NYU GPH is creating a series of online training modules aligning with health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The modules cover topics including an overview of COVID-19 symptoms, transmission, and testing, as well as an introduction to infection control, the proper use of face masks, personal hand hygiene, and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. Training will also address activities specific to drivers, including vehicle cleaning, air ventilation in cars, and customer service protocols.

The NYU team includes:

  • Jack Caravanos, who has more than 30 years of experience in designing and implementing environmental health interventions. Local and international groups rely on his expertise and research to help communities at risk from exposure to environmental hazards and toxins. Caravanos is also a board-certified industrial hygienist and specialist in personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks.
  • Andrew Goodman, clinical professor of public health policy and management at NYU GPH, who is a population health expert and former Deputy Commissioner for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Goodman now works with government agencies and union management to design workplace health programs, and several community organizations to design, implement, and evaluate community health interventions.
  • Andrew Burgie, assistant research scientist at NYU GPH, who directs the Hazardous Waste Worker Training Program, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which has trained more than 5,000 professionals in the New York metropolitan area.

Caravanos, Goodman, and Burgie are working closely with the IDG to develop the evidence-based training program; IDG, a Machinists Union affiliate working to ensure the health and safety of rideshare drivers and riders through advocacy and education, will then implement the training program. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the IDG successfully advocated for a ban on pool rides, a mask mandate for riders and drivers, and compensation for sick and high-risk Uber, Lyft and Via drivers. It also worked quickly to secure and distribute safety kits of masks and hand sanitizer to more than 10,000 New York City drivers at the peak of the pandemic, who were on the streets transporting hospital workers and other essential personnel.

"I am eager to get back to work, but don't have the luxury of working from home. It's been difficult to balance safety and financial security. The training developed by NYU and the Guild are really important to me—giving me reliable information on how I can protect myself and my family," said Guillermo Fondeur, an IDG member based in Brooklyn who drives for Uber and Lyft.

"We look forward to providing this training, which will benefit both drivers and their passengers. It’s one of many ways that NYU School of Global Public Health has been answering the call for public health expertise during this pandemic, from modeling to taking the pulse on primary care in New York City to community efforts mobilizing resources to donate PPE," added Caravanos.

This training program was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U45ES006179. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Media contact for IDG: Moira Muntz, press@drivingguild.org

About the NYU School of Global Public Health
At the NYU School of Global Public Health (NYU GPH), we are preparing the next generation of public health pioneers with the critical thinking skills, acumen, and entrepreneurial approaches necessary to reinvent the public health paradigm. Devoted to employing a nontraditional, interdisciplinary model, NYU GPH aims to improve health worldwide through a unique blend of global public health studies, research, and practice. The School is located in the heart of New York City and extends to NYU's global network on six continents. Innovation is at the core of our ambitious approach, thinking and teaching. For more, visit: http://publichealth.nyu.edu/

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