How Drivers Can Stay Safe During COVID-19
Drivers Benefits is committed to providing news relevant to drivers about how to protect themselves and what to do if they are sick. We are going to update this page and continue to make it better.
The most recently updated material will be highlighted in blue.
Last updated: 10/20/2020
- NEW: COVID Alert NY app
- UPDATED: Recommended safety measures for drivers from New York State
- UPDATED: COVID-19 Antibody Testing
- UPDATED: COVID-19 Tracing
Disclaimer: This guide is not meant to constitute legal or professional advice. Please consult a lawyer for any legal advice.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, is a very contagious and dangerous virus, with symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, fever, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, headache, and muscle pain.
The CDC recently added congestion or runny nose, nausea, and diarrhea as symptoms as well.
Who’s at risk?
Everyone is at risk. But those who are at a higher risk of getting very sick are older adults and those who suffer from heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.
You can learn more about COVID-19 from the CDC here.
How Does it Spread?
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
- People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
- Spreading the disease is also possible before people show symptoms.
Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects
A person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
What if I think I already had COVID-19?
You can get an antibody test to find out if this was the case. The implications of a positive antibody test are unclear at this time.
How to stay safe?
As a driver, you come into contact with many people throughout the day, increasing your risk of getting the virus or spreading it. Below are ways to stay safe and healthy:
Wear a Face Covering
On April 15th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring members of the public to wear a face covering when social distancing cannot be kept. This would include being inside a car. The order goes into effect on Friday, April 17th.
You can find the executive order here.
New York City is distributing face coverings. You can find a list of times and locations here.
As of April 2nd, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a guidance recommending that all New Yorkers wear a face covering when they are outside of their homes, and, in particular, whenever using car services. We have copied some of the most important guidelines for drivers below. You can find the full guidance here.
What type of face covering is better — paper or cloth?
Either paper or cloth face covering is fine — as long as you are covering your nose and mouth. However, please do not hoard paper masks, especially medical-grade masks, such as N95 masks or surgical masks. These masks are in very short supply and our health care providers need masks to stay healthy and to care for the most critically ill. Health care workers cannot maintain distance from others, avoid sick people, or avoid contact with others’ bodily fluids such as saliva, so it is essential that we reserve masks for them.
Duke University recently did a study that ranked the most effective face coverings. You can check out a summary of the results here.
How often do I need to wash my face covering?
If you are using a cloth face covering, we recommend washing once a day by hand or machine using detergent. The face covering should be fully dry before using. People should have a couple of face coverings so they can rotate for washing.
Are there precautions I should take with my face covering?
- In taking on and off a face covering, you will likely touch your face. As such, please wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or, if not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer every time you take on and off your face covering.
- Do not put a used face covering in places where others can touch them or where germs trapped in your face covering can touch other surfaces, such as counter tops or your kitchen table.
- Used paper masks should be thrown out at the end of the day.
- Do not throw your face covering loose in a bag or backpack. We recommend keeping a plastic back with you to store your face covering if you will be taking it off when outside the house.
Are there unsafe hand sanitizer brands I should be avoiding?
Yes. The CDC has deemed certain hand sanitizers unsafe to use. You can find more information, and a list of products, here.
Keep your car clean.
Disinfect most commonly touched parts of the car: steering wheel, backseats, passenger handles, seatbelts, car buttons, and headrests. Here are more detailed tips for how to clean your car during Coronavirus.
UPDATED: Have a partition installed in your car.
Installing a partition is an important step in stopping the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus by separating you from your passengers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Taxi and Limousine Commission is allowing all vehicles without partitions to install temporary partitions by approved TLC-partition installers. See the updated approved list of partition installers here.
The TLC recommends contacting the approved installer prior to showing up to their business. The TLC also recommends keeping a copy of your installation paperwork in your vehicle to demonstrate the partition was installed by an approved installer.
If you are leasing your car, we also recommend reaching out to your leaser to make sure they approve and to see if they have any special deals for their clients.
UPDATED: Keep your car ventilated
As stated in this Private Auto Transportation Master Guidance released by New York, drivers should increase ventilation in their cars whenever possible by opening windows. If they are unable to, they should not use recirculated air when passengers are in the car.
Wash your hands often.
We know it’s hard to find a bathroom to wash your hands, so we recommend keeping the following in your car so you can wash your hands on-the-go:
- Water bottle with a sports cap
- Paper towels so you can fully dry your hands
- Plastic bag to throw out the paper towel
- Remember you must wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Here’s a video to show you how to properly wash your hands, so you don’t forget any hidden spots.
Coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout the world. The best way to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe is to stay home if you think you might be getting sick, even if it’s just the common cold. Also, avoid public space and keep your distance from people when you’re not driving.
Health Webinar with New York City Department of Health
In April, we hosted a webinar with the New York City Department of Health’s Rima Oken, Director of Policy, Division of Disease Control and Anna Shats, Community Coordinator for South Brooklyn and Staten Island. We went over how drivers can stay safe and healthy while driving.
What Should You Do If You Feel Sick?
Make an appointment.
If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, like fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call a doctor immediately. As a Drivers Benefits member, you get free, 24/7 access to MDLIVE*. You and your immediate family can use the app, or call directly, to chat with a doctor in more than 150 languages whenever or wherever. Click here to download the MDLIVE app on the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store today, or just call at 1-888-574-2864.
You can use the app to schedule an appointment so you don’t need to wait on the phone or risk going to a crowded doctor’s office.
*MDLIVE is paid for by The Black Car Fund.
UPDATED: Get Tested
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is recommending anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms should get a test.
There are plenty of ways to find a test near you:
New York City Department of Health testing website is here.
New York State Department of Health testing website is here.
You can get a free walk-in test at the locations listed here.
If you have questions about any symptoms you’re experiencing and don’t have a primary care provider, you can call the 24-hour state hotline at1-888-364-3065, or 311 to receive assistance on making an appointment for a COVID-19 test.
All NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) locations are offering free COVID-19 antibody testing. An antibody test measures the proteins in your blood that fight off infections, and you can read more about them here. To find a testing location near you, click here.
Sign up for Duke Community Health Watch
You should also consider signing up for Duke Community Health Watch. In this program, they will:
- Help you monitor any symptoms you may be having and provide guidance on how to care for yourself at home
- Provide guidance on when to seek medical care if your symptoms increase
- Support you in following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and your local public health department
If you are interested in learning more about the program and applying, please click here for more information.
UPDATED: Download the new COVID Alert NY app
COVID Alert NY is a totally voluntary and anonymous app that will alert you if you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. You can learn more about and download the app here.
UPDATED: Contact Tracing
New York City Test and Trace Corps works through NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) and makes sure that everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 has what they need to quarantine and recover.
If you receive a phone call from “NYC Test +Trace” (212-540-****, or 212-242-****), please pick it up since it may be the NYC Test and Trace Corps trying to get in touch with you. Learn more about the NYC Test and Trace Corps, click here.
If you still have questions about COVID-19 and driving, we recommend you go to the CDC’s guidance on “Rideshare, Taxi, Limo, and other Passenger Drivers-for-Hire” here.