Amazon late last week confirmed its first known coronavirus case in a US warehouse, located in Queens, New York, in the heart of the country’s current virus epicenter. Now, it’s grappling with a handful more cases around the country.
Workers tested positive for the disease at Amazon facilities in Staten Island and Queens, New York; Shepherdsville, Kentucky; Jacksonville, Florida; Katy, Texas; Brownstown, Michigan; Wallingford, Conn. and Oklahoma City, the Washington Post and NPR reported, citing several local news reports. Some of those facilities were shut down for cleaning, and some employees who were in close contact with the infected employees have been quarantined.
The Queens facility was temporarily shut down last week but was back up and running within a day, after cleaning was completed. While the number of confirmed cases has risen, they remain small compared to Amazon’s total workforce, which is about 300,000 workers in the US. The company plans to hire an additional 100,000 employees in the country to help it manage a surge in customer demand during the health crisis.
If Amazon starts to face more cases in its warehouses or delivery networks, it could significantly weaken its ability to get packages to its millions of customers who have been told to stay home, potentially for months. Additionally, more warehouse workers may opt to stay home to avoid getting the illness.
Warehouse workers and their supporters have alreadythat the company will fail to protect its hundreds of thousands of employees and delivery workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Looking to allay these many worries, Amazon on Wednesday published a lengthy post on its company blog describing the many steps it’s taking to keep its workers and customers healthy. The company has already made public many of these new protocols.
“With guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), 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 post said.
This work includes increased cleaning and sanitization at all sites, including disinfecting door handles, touchscreens, handrails and other frequently touched surfaces. Delivery drivers were given detailed directions to clean their vehicles and equipment. Whole Foods stores are closing early to allow workers there to clean the locations.
Amazon also eliminated stand-up meetings and staggered start times and break times in warehouses to make it easier for people to physically distance themselves from one another.
Hourly pay and overtime pay has been raised. Up to two weeks pay are offered for any employee diagnosed with the coronavirus or in quarantine. Several employees, though, told CNET that offer isn’t enough and they’ve called for more paid time off for all hourly workers. Hourly employees were also offered unlimited unpaid time off.
The company also created the Amazon Relief Fund with a $25 million starting contribution to help independent delivery businesses, gig workers who pick up work through Amazon Flex and seasonal employees.