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Amazon using thermal cameras for COVID-19 temperature checks

The e-tailing giant is using the cameras at some of its operations facilities to ease the process of screening employees for fever related to the coronavirus.

Thermal imaging in use at the entrance to a hospital in Spain. Amazon says it's now using thermal cameras at some of its operations sites to help protect employees by screening for fever.

Thermal imaging in use at the entrance to a hospital in Spain. Amazon says it's now using thermal cameras at some of its operations sites to help protect employees by screening for fever. 

David Benito/Getty Images
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Amazon is now using thermal cameras to do temperature checks at some of its operations facilities, another move by the company to increase worker protections during the COVID-19 pandemic, following criticism that it wasn't doing enough.

The e-commerce giant first started doing checks in late March, saying in a blog post at the time that workers with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit would be sent home and "only come back to work after they've gone three days without a fever." The temperature limit was drawn from US Centers for Disease Control guidance, Amazon said.

On Saturday, a spokesperson said the new camera-based checks are meant to make the process easier.

An Amazon worker being screened for fever last month, using a contactless thermometer. The company says it's tapping thermal cameras to streamline the process.

Amazon

"We implemented daily temperature checks in our operations locations as an additional preventative measure to support the health and safety of our employees," Kristen Kish said in a statement. "We are now implementing the use of thermal cameras for temperature screening to create a more streamlined experience at some of our sites."

Amazon's operations network includes its warehouses and delivery centers, as well as Whole Foods grocery stores. Kish didn't specify which sites were using the cameras.

The temperature checks are part of a series of worker-protection measures Amazon put in place amid criticism about its handling of the coronavirus crisis. Several Amazon and Whole Foods employees, fearful and frustrated about having to work through the crisis, had earlier organized walkouts to call for better protections. And organized labor, which doesn't represent Amazon workers in the US, along with advocacy groups and many politicians joined the push to get Amazon to do more for its employees.

A number of Amazon warehouse workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, with those infections occurring as consumers rely more heavily on the internet retailer for their basic needs. 

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"With over 1,000 sites around the world, and so many measures and precautions rapidly rolled out ... there may be instances where we don't get it perfect, but I can assure you that's just what they'll be -- exceptions," Dave Clark, Amazon's head of worldwide operations, said in the March blog post announcing the temperature checks and various other measures.

CNET's Ben Fox Rubin and Steven Musil contributed to this report.