Philly Coronavirus News: Uber Suspends Riders Over “Public Health Concern,” City Shuts Down Businesses

“I wouldn’t get into an Uber right now,” says one Philly Uber driver. “You’re playing Russian roulette.”

a message sent to a philly uber rider who has been suspended during the coronavirus crisis

A screenshot of a message sent to some Philadelphia Uber riders during the Philadelphia coronavirus crisis.

A roundup of Philly coronavirus news.

Uber Suspends Philly Riders Over “Public Health Concern”

Have you had your Uber rider account suspended in the last couple of days? If so, you are not alone. Philly Mag has heard from three local Uber riders who have received messages from Uber indicating that they cannot request a ride because their accounts have been suspended due to a “public health concern.”

Here is the message from Uber:

We were made aware of a public health concern by your local Department of Public Health. Your rider account has been placed on hold until the Public Health Officer completes their investigation. You can still use the Uber Eats app to order food.

We understand this is concerning, but we can’t share information on behalf of the Department of Public Health. In addition, our Uber Support teams won’t be able to offer additional assistance until the investigation is complete.

You can contact your local Department of Public Health if you have any questions.

Once we receive notice that the Public Health Officer has finished their investigation, we’ll revisit the status of your account.

Thank you for your patience.

One Philly Uber rider we spoke with sent a message back to Uber requesting more information. Here was Uber’s reply:

Thank you for reaching out [name redacted],

The safety of all users is important to us. We understand this may be frustrating, but until we can confirm that the health concern has been resolved, your account will remain on hold. As a reminder, while your Rider account is on hold, you can still use the Uber Eats app to order food.

Please reach out to your local Department of Public Health directly for guidance and explanation regarding your situation.

Please know that we’re standing by and will revisit your account status when health officials notify us that their investigation is complete.

We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

The Uber riders we spoke with are all puzzled and have far more questions than answers.

Did an Uber driver report me for coughing?

Has Uber suspended me because my Uber driver was exposed to the coronavirus?

Did Uber suspend me because a different rider in the same car was exposed?

Am I somehow otherwise connected to somebody who has been exposed to the coronavirus, and now the city is turning over all of that person’s contacts to Uber?

The list goes on.

We’ve reached out to Uber for comment but have yet to receive one.

As for the City of Philadelphia, spokesperson Mike Dunn says that “the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is most assuredly NOT releasing any information on cases to anyone.” He adds that city officials “don’t know how or why this message was generated,” referring to the message that Philly riders have received from Uber.

So for now, these Uber rider suspensions are one big mystery. But one Philly Uber driver named Dave (he asks that we not use his last name) says that riders should just delete the app altogether until the coronavirus crisis has passed.

“I wouldn’t get into an Uber right now,” Dave says. (Note that Uber has issued guidelines to drivers in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.) “You’re playing Russian roulette. There’s no way that these drivers are cleaning their cars after each ride. It’s as bad as being on a SEPTA bus. Even worse.”

City Shuts Down Businesses Amid Coronavirus Crisis

The city and state have told all non-essential or life-sustaining businesses to close their doors, but, because we’re Philly, some businesses decided to do their own thing. Well, the city basically showed them who’s really in charge.

As of the end of last week, the Department of Licenses and Inspections had inspected 242 Philly businesses for possible violations of Mayor Kenney’s order. It turns out that some businesses were not in violation. Other businesses decided to comply once the city flexed its muscles. And in seven cases, the city had to issue cease operations orders to get the businesses to close.

We asked for the names of the businesses that were forced to close, but the city isn’t naming names at this time.

So what should you do if a business in your neighborhood is operating illegally?

“If a resident sees a business they think is in violation of the guidance, they can file a report with Philly 311 (by calling 3-1-1, using the app, or submitting online),” a city rep told us via email. “They can ‘Submit a Request’ for a ‘Business Operating During COVID-19 Closure’ in 311’s mobile app and web portal.”

Wolf Reopens Online Wine and Spirits Sales

Yesterday morning, we told you that Governor Wolf might reopen online wine and spirits sales. And by the end of the day, he did just that.

But good luck getting an order through. Every time we checked the site on Wednesday and Thursday, we were unable to place an order.

“Due to overwhelming demand, the online store is not available at this time,” reads a message on the site. “Please try again tomorrow or in the coming days. We apologize for the inconvenience. We appreciated your understanding and patience in these unprecedented times.”

So, yeah, try tomorrow… or just get your booze from a local distillery… or New Jersey or Delaware. You’ve got options.