More Amazon warehouse workers in US test positive for COVID-19
The increase, to 10 affected warehouses as of Wednesday, comes as consumers rely more heavily on the internet retailer for their basic needs.
Ben Fox RubinFormer senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
ExpertiseI have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
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.
employees in at least 10 warehouses in the US have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to Amazon and local and national news reports.
Cases previously had been reported for warehouse employees in Spain and Italy, two major hotspot for the virus.
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 500,000 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.
We are supporting the individuals, following guidelines from local officials, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all the employees at our sites," an Amazon spokesperson said Tuesday.
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 already voiced serious concerns that 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 US 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.