Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A cash rewards app that encourages people to use cleaner forms of transportation might also help coax virus-leery commuters back into shared rides, buses and trains.

The big picture: Since the coronavirus pandemic, most people surveyed say they'd feel safer driving their personal car to work, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises workers to avoid mass transit if possible. But cities can't return to normal without safe, affordable public transportation.

Hytch, the commuter mobile app, found a second use for its technology during the pandemic: tracking COVID-19 infections.

How it works: Hytch partners with employers, brands and governments to provide cash rewards to commuters who choose low-emission forms of transport such as public transit, carpooling, cycling or walking.

  • After a two-year pilot in Nashville, 10,000 Hytch users logged 11.8 million vehicle miles in the city and earned $250,000 in rewards.
  • More important were the vehicle miles not driven in personal cars (7.58 million) and the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips not taken (more than 420,000).
  • That data, released Thursday, is being shared with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is studying car-sharing incentives, Hytch CEO Mark Cleveland said.
  • Seattle and San Francisco are adopting similar programs while South Bend, Indiana, is using Hytch's carpooling incentives to support workers with limited transportation options.

What's next: Now Hytch is partnering with companies to pay employees for using the app to self-screen before they commute to work and for contract tracing in the event of an outbreak.

Go deeper

Updated 21 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

African countries collectively surpassed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases this week.

Why it matters: Health experts believe the true number of COVID-19 cases in African countries is higher than that figure due to a lack of testing and fear that undetected cases could overload some of the world’s weakest health systems.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 19,451,097 — Total deaths: 722,835 — Total recoveries — 11,788,665Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2. p.m. ET: 4,968,413 — Total deaths: 161,858 — Total recoveries: 1,623,870 — Total tests: 60,415,558Map.
  3. Public health: Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective.
  4. Science: Indoor air is the next coronavirus frontline.
  5. Schools: How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on — Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Howard to hold fall classes online.
4 hours ago - Health

In photos: Sturgis Motorcycle Rally celebrates 80 years amid coronavirus

A motorcyclist driving in Sturgis on Aug. 7. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Thousands of motorcyclists have gathered in Sturgis, South Dakota, this week to celebrate the 80th Motorcycle Rally despite the coronavirus pandemic, AP reports.

Why it matters: Local residents fear the crowds could create a “super-spreader” event because the state government has not implemented limits on indoor crowds or mask mandates, and Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has encouraged people from around the U.S. to travel to the state. Organizers reportedly expect 250,000 people to rumble into town during the 10-day affair.