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Amazon confirms first case of coronavirus at a U.S. warehouse

With an increasing number of people forced to stay home due to the coronavirus, more Americans than ever are relying on delivery services like Amazon to obtain vital supplies.

That’s why news coming out of New York City will be cause for concern.

First reported by The Atlantic, Amazon confirmed on Wednesday that a worker at its delivery facility in Queens has contracted the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19. Amazon informed workers at the facility by text in what’s believed to be the first case of the virus at one of its U.S. warehouses.

An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed the report, telling The Atlantic, “We are supporting the individual who is now in quarantine.”

The company later told Digital Trends: “We have implemented proactive measures to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance, and adding distance between drivers and customers when making deliveries. In addition to our enhanced daily deep cleaning, we’ve temporarily closed the Queens delivery station for additional sanitation and have sent associates home with full pay.”

Two workers at Amazon’s main Seattle office are already known to have contracted the virus. But news of the first warehouse worker contracting COVID-19 raises the specter of serious disruption in the near future for the increasing number of people relying on delivery services like Amazon’s.

In North America, the online shopping giant currently has more than 75 fulfillment centers and more than 125,000 full-time Amazon employees. Amazon can comfortably handle the temporary loss of one warehouse, but if it only takes one COVID-19 diagnosis to force closure for a deep clean, or if staff numbers dwindle following multiple infections, it’s easy to see how the situation could soon become a major challenge for both company and customers.

And spare a thought for those warehouse workers, too, some of whom are already voicing concerns about possible exposure to the virus in busy facilities as demand for deliveries ramps up across the nation and at other Amazon warehouses around the world.

Responding to the increased pressure on its gargantuan delivery operation, Amazon recently revealed plans to up its hourly pay rate through April and take on 100,000 extra part- and full-time workers.

Updated on March 20: Added information from Amazon spokesperson.

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