Jerome Gage is one of those rare Lyft drivers still on the road these days, mask securely in place. He says that surprises some passengers.
"It's kind of like the cliché of a Christmas shopper going into Macy's at like 3 a.m. on Black Friday and saying, 'Wow, they have you working?' " he said. "Yeah, I'm working because people need us. They don't want to rely on public transportation.''
Many Lyft and Uber drivers have given up on driving, because they aren't making enough money to take the risk of potentially exposing themselves to the virus.
The companies have been slow to provide promised protective gear — even in cities like Los Angeles, where the mayor has ordered companies to supply essential workers with free masks.
"What to say about a company that ignores the health and needs of its employees?" says Gage, who has been joining protests urging the ride-hailing companies to treat workers better. "We're potentially risking our health and the health of others."
Gage has been driving full-time since 2018. Lately, though, he's only getting paid for about 20 hours a week, because demand for rides has dropped so precipitously. He says he spends a lot of the day "pulled over to the side of a road waiting for my next pickup," watching YouTube or Netflix.
He's making do for now, but he's worried about his plans to pursue higher education and buy a house. "I'm about to be in my 30s, you know, and I want to make things for myself ... so this crisis is definitely hurting me."