Multiple news outlets were reporting Tuesday afternoon that ride-sharing companies Uber (UBER -1.18%) and Lyft (LYFT -3.89%) have stopped allowing customers to order shared rides -- at least rides shared with strangers -- in an effort to enhance social distancing and help slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  

The "Uber Pool" option previously allowed customers to indicate their willingness to share a car with other passengers heading in the same general direction in exchange for a discounted fare. Lyft had a similar "Shared" option. As of Tuesday morning, both companies were disabling those choices on their apps.

Woman holding cellphone and leaning into a street looking worriedly for a taxi

Image source: Getty Images.

In an email sent to its drivers, Uber advised: "In our efforts to help protect you, your riders, and our community, we've decided to suspend Uber Pool until further notice," reports Business Insider. A reporter's call to Lyft received confirmation that Lyft, too, is "pausing" shared rides.

As of noon Tuesday, the Lyft Shared option was still available in at least some markets, but that may have been due to oversights or simply an indication of a slow deployment of the change. Bloomberg confirmed that both companies have paused ride-sharing for multiple groups of passengers.  

For all fares, Uber has suggested that its drivers roll down windows "to improve ventilation," and ask riders to cover their mouths and noses when coughing, and recommend that they wash their hands before and after entering an Uber car.

As of 2:45 p.m. EDT, with the S&P up 4.6%, Uber stock was down by around 6.5%, while Lyft shares were off by about 2.3%. These selloffs may have been overreactions to the news, however. Anecdotal reports indicate that Uber Pool, at least, was never popular with its drivers, who often sought ways to avoid picking up those fares. Ultimately, then, discontinuing the services might not have too great an impact on the ride-sharing companies' bottom lines.