It was not an easy to decision to do our first “online-only” issue of Black Car News, but thanks to our growing social media presence, the increases we’ve seen in the number of people who already read our newspaper online and the help of The Black Car Fund, we will be reaching at least as many (if not more) drivers, business owners and employees of For-Hire Vehicle bases and industry vendors this month. Please take the time to read this issue carefully. It is packed with essential news about the devastating coronavirus (COVID-19), tips to help keep you and your clients safe and healthy and links to resources for financial assistance, as we all do our best to weather this pandemic.

I am hoping to go back to a print edition as soon as next month, but as we’ve learned all too well these past months, it’s impossible to know what’s coming next.

I would like to thank The New York Black Car Fund for agreeing to forward the link to our website – and I urge everyone who reads this to do the same. PLEASE share the link to www.blackcarnews.comwith as many people as possible. You can also download the issue from our website, and I will gladly email a digital copy in PDF format to anyone who wants one. Simply email me at [email protected] and I will send it to you ASAP.

We will be updating our website with late-breaking news, so please visit it regularly. If you would like to receive alerts to up-to-the-minute industry news via email, please visit our website, scroll down to the bottom of our homepage, plug in your email address and click “subscribe now”.

Drivers: PLEASE Activate and Use Your Benefits

Perhaps the single most important tip I can offer to the drivers in our industry who belong to The New York Black Car Fund is: If you haven’t already, sign up for the benefits that are already available to you. They have already been paid for by the surcharge on the rides you have provided, so you can access them at no cost to you. That includes FREE telemedicine services – not just for you, but your family members as well.

Telemedicine services are available day and night, 24/7, with translators in 150 languages, via phone call and/or video conferencing, with board-certified doctors. The doctors can call in prescriptions (no controlled substances), diagnose and treat non-emergency conditions and offer valuable advice regarding COVID-19.

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms – like fever, shortness of breath or a cough – your telemedicine benefit can literally be a lifesaver. Sign up by either calling 1-833-814-8590 or visit www.driversbenefits.org.

Telemedicine can be particularly useful at this time because it allows you to be “screened” for symptoms of COVID-19, without taking the unnecessary risk of being exposed or exposing others to the virus. It also helps prevent overcrowding and depletion of resources at hospitals, doctors’ offices and emergency care centers.

How Can Professional Drivers Avoid Coronavirus?

Professional drivers meet many different people each day and are rightfully concerned. So, how can you keep working and stay healthy? There are no guarantees, but if you follow the tips below, you dramatically increase your chances of avoiding infection. It is ESSENTIAL to note that anyone can catch COVID-19, and even if you are not in a high-risk group, you could be actively spreading the disease to people who could die from it, if you aren’t following the proper protocols.

IMPORTANT: If you are in a high-risk group, it is recommended that you stay home. This includes:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
  • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, renal failure or liver disease
  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illnesses, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk

The CDC website is an excellent resource for more information and updates. Visit it here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

How does COVID-19 spread?

Although the method of infection has not been fully determined, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it most likely spreads between humans in tiny droplets from sneezes and coughs, or via hand to hand contact. It can also remain active on a variety of surfaces, so be careful to keep your vehicle clean, clean your hands vigorously and try your best to not touch your face, if you have touched a surface that may not be clean.

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

Symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear, which is why Coronavirus is so hard to spot. However, clear signs of infection are high temperature (fever), coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath.

How can I avoid catching or spreading Coronavirus?

The following tips are from the website of industry insurance company, INSHUR and the CDC website. Stay current on news and avoid misinformation by texting COVID to 692-692 and/or checking nyc.gov/taxi for updates specific to TLC licensees. Commissioner Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk urges TLC-licensed drivers, vehicle owners and operators to follow the text updates closely to get the latest information on what precautions to take.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds – use a hand sanitizer gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are clearly unwell – but remember that refusing rides could be viewed as discriminatory, which is illegal.
  • Keep disinfectant wipes in the car and clean inside surfaces regularly.
  • Keep plenty of tissues in the car. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow (never your hands, if possible). Dump used tissues in the trash immediately.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

The Black Car Assistance Corporation offered these additional tips:

  • When washing your hands, rub your them together vigorously, scrubbing all surfaces, including backs of hands, between fingers, under fingernails and wrists. Rinse your hands well while keeping them lower than your elbows so the dirty water runs down the drain and not up your arms. Always wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, touching someone who is sick, or when using public restrooms.
  • Dry your hands well using paper towels and to turn off the faucet. If you are in a public restroom, use a paper towel to open the restroom door. Air dryers in bathrooms often carry germs as they pull air from the bathroom. Always have clean napkins on hand; some public restrooms only have air dryers.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers. Be sure to buy sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol. When using a gel, rub the gel over all hand surfaces until your hands are dry.

The BCAC also recommends practicing other good health habits, like getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating nutritious foods.

What if I catch the Coronavirus?

If you think you may have been infected, don’t rush to your doctor’s office or local hospital. You may spread the virus further. ISOLATE yourself at home and CALL the hospital emergency department for advice. Avoid contact with others as much as possible and maintain very strict hand hygiene. Stay off work for 14 days. Above all, don’t panic. Most people who catch the virus recover without lingering effects.

Reported symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can include fever, cough or shortness of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure.

Guidance for home self-monitoring

During your 14-day home self-monitoring period, check yourself for fever twice daily and remain alert for a cough or shortness of breath. If these symptoms arise, stay at home and avoid going outside for the entire period. You should not attend work, public events or group gatherings. If you have fever or symptoms, call the NYC Health Department at 347-396-7990.

Cleaning and Maintaining Your Car in the Coronavirus Era

If you are an FHV driver, you are being counted on to keep your vehicle clean and safe, both for your own sake and for your passengers. The primary surfaces you should worry about are those that you or your passengers have touched with their hands or coughed/sneezed on – like door handles (interior and exterior), the steering wheel, shifter, control stalks, armrests, seats, climate controls, seat belts (including buckles), radio knobs, touch screens, etc.

The CDC’s COVID-19 tips include using chlorine bleach. But bleach, at any dilution, can irreparably damage your car’s interior. If it gets on your seat belts, it can weaken their fabric and compromise safety. Also: Avoid peroxide-based cleaners; they can cause similar damage. Instead, use alcohol-based products (like hand sanitizers) to kill germs.

The CDC notes that the best approach is to take two steps: clean, then disinfect.

Step one: Clean your car’s hard surfaces with a gentle household cleaner, an existing car-specific cleaner, or even just soap and water. A microfiber cloth will remove the most dirt and leave the fewest scratches. If electronics are involved, keep the amount of liquid to a minimum.

Step two: Go back and wipe down the same surfaces with an alcohol-based, germ-killing product.

If your car interior is leather, the media outlet Kiplinger recommends periodically using a leather-care product that contains moisturizers. This includes leather-wrapped steering wheels.

Other resources for important information

For other essential tips and links to important websites regarding financial assistance and TLC-related issues, I highly recommend reading the various news stories in this issue, along with the columns written by Ira Goldstein, Matthew W. Daus, Esq. and Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk. Additional helpful resources include:

  • For mental health services, please contact NYC Well at 888-NYC-WELL (888-692-9355) or text WELL to 65173. This confidential help line is staffed 24/7 with trained counselors who can offer crisis counseling and connections to behavioral health treatment in more than 200 languages.
  • If you are harassed because of your race, nation of origin, or other identities, report it by calling 311 and say “human rights.”
  • If you have fever or symptoms, call the NYC Health Department at 347-396-7990.
  • Track the virus at https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
  • Learn more about Coronavirus at https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
  • Learn about virus protection at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

If you have any additional questions or concerns, I will do my best to help or to direct you to someone who can. My phone number is (856) 751-0656 and my email is [email protected] As we all struggle through this strange and uncertain time, I want to offer all of you – along with your families and loved ones – my best wishes. For those of you who contract the virus, I wish you a speedy and full recovery. For those who have lost loved ones, I offer my deepest condolences. We WILL get through this!

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Article by Neil Weiss

Neil Weiss is the Editor/Publisher/Owner of Black Car News and Livery Times. He has been involved in the ground transportation industry since 1991, writing thousands of articles on a wide variety of subjects.

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