Uber adds passengers, food orders amid omicron surge
Ride-hailing giant Uber reported more riders last quarter and a boost in food deliveries as people ventured out - and ordered in - despite the spread of the omicron variant. The company announced in its 4th quarter earnings call Wednesday it had more than 118 million active users - its highest number ever. Gross Mobility Bookings, the total amount of ride-sharing trips, increased 67% year on year.Company CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called omicron a "temporary deterrent" to demand at the end of December, but he said the company was bouncing back from the variant and "our results demonstrate just how far we've come since the beginning of the pandemic.""The Omicron impact on our Mobility business has come and gone relatively quickly," Khosrowshahi said. "Even faster than global case counts." He told investors Wednesday that bookings were up 25% last week month-on-month.The business also saw an uptick in food delivery, with orders up 34% compared to the same period last year.Lyft, meanwhile, recordeda 49% increase in riders over the year, but registered a slight dip in users in the last three months of 2021."Despite short-term headwinds from omicron, we remain optimistic about full-year 2022," CEO Elaine Paul said in a Lyft earnings call Tuesday.The news of increased rides in 2021 on both platforms came as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House Chief Medical Advisor, offered an optimistic view of the future course of the pandemic. Fauci told the Financial Times Wednesday the U.S. is emerging from the "full-blown phase" of the pandemic, and "I hope we are looking at a time when we have enough people vaccinated and enough people with protection from previous infection that the Covid restrictions will soon be a thing of the past."A number of governors have announced they're easing those restrictions now, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. As of Thursday, private businesses in New York will no longer be required to enforce vaccine and masking rules. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.