ST. LOUIS — Ismail Malique has been a driver for St. Louis County Cab for eight years.
He's used to being on the go, but now more than ever he's constantly hitting the streets.
"We have to hustle, hustle, hustle. It's tough," said Malique.
It's tough because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We used to can hit the Central West End, downtown, north side, city side, the county and be OK, but now we have to hustle all over the city, county, Jefferson, Lincoln, all surrounding counties," Malique told 5 On Your Side's Robert Townsend on Saturday.
The veteran cab driver said with so many businesses temporarily closed and the city and county currently under a stay-at-home order, he's picking up fewer fares.
Malique estimates his company's ridership is down about 20%.
"Even though all the businesses are down especially like airports, hotels, bars and restaurants, we are still doing hospitals mainly," he said.
The sudden, COVID-19-related change is also hitting the husband and father of two in his pockets.
"The way we used to make money for so many years, now it's completely opposite. Fortunately, our company president and our manager, they are sacrificing a lot for us," said Malique.
Their bosses are also telling the taxi drivers to clean their cabs routinely.
"We are getting lots of disinfectants, napkins, sanitizers and Lysol. I have it all sitting up front next to me. Where ever people are going to be touching, handles, doors, seats, we must constantly wipe it down," said the concerned cabbie.
It's a new safety precaution about 200 area cab drivers are now practicing.
"It's pretty bad overall for them financially. I'm not gonna say they're not suffering because they are. Their business is way down. Half of the fleet of airport taxis has been cut down by one third. Their fears are that we will have some drivers come down with the illness by trying to do the right thing. The good thing about it is not everybody's abandoned ship. Some people have to take a cab because they need groceries. They need prescription drugs and they need to go to the doctor," said Ron Klein, the President of the Metropolitan Taxi Commission.
And even as he does everything to stay healthy and stay the course, Ismail Malique remains optimistic.
"We're still serving customers and we will be. I even think the good days will be coming back soon. We are hopeful," added Malique.
On March 24, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page put out a call for donations of hand sanitizers and wiped for regulated cab drivers. To help, email email@example.com.