Red Deer cab drivers are considered essential workers — but still have the right to refuse fares.
The manager of Alberta Gold and Associated Cabs (working jointly as Taxi Dispatch Systems) said a person’s health is now a factor about whether a taxi will come and pick them up. But “there’s some leeway,” said the manager, who declined to be named for personal reasons.
He realizes some coughs could result from allergies or regular colds. However, he added that dispatchers are now allowed to question callers about whether they have fevers and other symptoms of COVID-19.
It’s the law in Alberta for infected people to self-isolate and not spreading the virus to drivers and other customers.
The taxi company manager said Red Deer taxi drivers must sanitize the interior of their vehicles between fares. And passengers are no longer allowed to sit up front with the driver. Sedans can now only carry two passengers and vans can carry only three passengers.
Karen Mann, the City of Red Deer’s emergency management co-ordinator, said municipal officials are keeping in touch with local taxi and drivers-for-hire businesses, to ensure they are following public health rules that apply to their industries.
“They can accept only fares that they are feeling comfortable with… it’s at the discretion of the dispatcher,” said Mann.
So far, Red Deer has not gone to the same length as Edmonton in enforcing social distancing rules on taxis and drivers for hire.
Edmonton taxis, limousines and ride-hailing services can no longer pick up more than one passenger at a time — unless the others are from the same household, are in a close personal relationship or are required caregivers.
The Red Deer taxi company manager said Edmonton is a different situation than Red Deer.
Cab drivers at higher risk from getting seriously ill from the virus are taking a break from their jobs in both cities — and some are only driving on stand-by, which means they will only drive pre-booked appointments to take people home from certain agencies.
But Red Deer has fewer taxi options than in the large cities, said the manager — who believes it doesn’t make logistical sense for two friends to have to call separate cabs to end up in the same place.
Mann said the City of Red Deer is satisfied, at this time, with provincial environmental and public health rules for taxis and driver-for-hire vehicles.