Amazon Faces Virus Cases

Employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in at least nine of its warehouses.

Amazon Fulfillment warehouse, Shakopee, Minn., July 8, 2019.
Amazon Fulfillment warehouse, Shakopee, Minn., July 8, 2019.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

Amazon is reportedly dealing with positive tests for the coronavirus by employees from at least nine of its warehouses.

CNN, citing Amazon and local media reports early Wednesday, indicated the latest case involved an employee at the e-commerce giant’s Staten Island fulfillment center. The company confirmed the positive test to CNN late Tuesday; the employee was last at work March 11, and is currently in quarantine and recovering.

The case is the second to affect Amazon warehouses in New York, and the other cases were all reported within the previous week. Other cases came from Amazon facilities in Queens, Moreno Valley, Calif., Jacksonville, Fla., Shepherdsville, Ky., Brownstown, Mich., Oklahoma City, Katy, Texas, and Wallingford, Conn.

CNN reports that Amazon temporarily closed some sites, included the Queens facility, but otherwise refrained from mass closures. Amazon responded that it is taking “extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site[s],” including regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, lockers and touch screens, along with staggering shifts and spreading out chairs in break rooms.

“We are consulting with health authorities and medical experts on how to handle building closures for deep cleaning if an employee tests positive for COVID-19,” Amazon said in a Tuesday post on its Day One blog. “Our process evaluates where the employee was in the building, for how long, how much time has passed since they were onsite, and who they interacted with, among other items, in determining whether we need to close. We also ask anyone at the site who was in close contact with the diagnosed individual to stay home with pay for 14 days in self-quarantine.”

The post added that Amazon adjusted its practices so fulfillment center employees can maintain a safer distance from co-workers. Instead of meeting during shifts, business-essential information is shared via white boards near main areas and through conversations with managers or HR team members.

Amazon said it has suspended exit screening to ensure ease of movement near main entrances. The company also shifted training to avoid having employees gather in one spot, and Amazon said it has adjusted its hiring process to encourage social distancing and paused hosting public guests in buildings. The blog post added that Amazon is requiring employees and delivery service partners to clean and disinfect their work stations.

“With guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, we've implemented a series of preventative health measures at our sites around the world to help keep our employees, partners and customers safe,” the blog post said.

In a March 16 blog post, Amazon announced it would invest more than $350 million globally to increase pay by $2 per hour for fulfillment centers, transportation operations and stores, as well as for those making deliveries so that others can remain at home. That post also announced that the company is hiring 100,000 new full- and part-time positions across the U.S.

Amazon said that all associates within its U.S. operations and delivery network will receive double their regular hourly base pay for every overtime hour worked in a workweek from March 15 through May 9.

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