Lyft to offer medical supply and meal delivery during coronavirus pandemic

Darrell Etherington

Lyft is expanding the types of services it provides through its on-demand transportation network in an effort to boost efforts to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The company announced that it will be offering delivery of critical medical supplies to individuals who need them during this time, including the elderly and those living with chronic diseases, and that it will be delivering meals to students who ordinarily get subsidized lunches through school, as well as seniors.

The new efforts are detailed in a blog post by the ride-hailing company, and also include expanding its existing medical transportation services for anyone that needs to get to critical healthcare appointments and treatments, while dealing with the extra strain put on the healthcare system by the coronavirus pandemic. It had already been offering non-emergency medical transportation, for people (especially those with lower income) who don't need an ambulance but otherwise benefit from on-demand transportation options for care.

Lyft's new meal delivery option is beginning with just a small pilot in the San Francisco Bay Area, and will focus on picking up meals from centralized distribution centers facilitated by government agencies to provide food for specific home-bound seniors and low-income students who rely on state-sponsored meal options. This isn't a meal delivery service like Uber Eats, but rather a triaged means of providing an essential service, and Lyft hopes to eventually scale the program to address more of California, and eventually possibly markets across the U.S.

These measures definitely send like they will increase access to crucial services for the groups and individuals most impacted by the current shelter-in-place, quarantine and isolation measures enacted in light of the coronavirus pandemic. On the driver side, there are naturally concerns that come into play since they'll be at increased risk due to greater exposure vs. people who are sheltering at home, but Lyft says that it's taking advanced precautions to help ensure the safety of its driver community, including offering funds to any drivers diagnosed with COVID-19, or put into formal quarantine as a result of their exposure by a public health agency.

Lyft and Uber are continuing to offer their regular ride-hailing services as well, though Uber has said that ride volume is down as much as 70 percent in the cities most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Both companies have also suspended their shared ride options as a way to ensure that their services adhere to CDC guidelines regarding social distancing as much as possible.