As more people are ordered into lockdown as part of measures to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, so increases the importance of online shopping services for getting vital supplies to those stuck at home.
But Amazon, the biggest shopping-and-shipping operation of them all, is starting to feel the pressure as growing numbers of its workers are struck down with the virus.
As of Wednesday, March 25, workers in at least 10 Amazon warehouses in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19, according to information from media reports and Amazon spokespeople. The first such report came a week ago regarding a worker at an Amazon facility in Queens, New York City, but since then further infections have been reported at Amazon warehouses in Staten Island, New York; Jacksonville, Florida; Joliet, Illinois; Moreno Valley, California; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Brownstown, Michigan; Katy, Texas; Wallingford, Connecticut; and Shepherdsville, Kentucky. We’ve reached out to Amazon for more information on the matter and will update this story if we hear back.
If the situation worsens dramatically in the coming weeks, it could prove challenging for the company as it would not only put affected workers out of action but also, in some cases, force the isolation of co-workers and the temporary closure of warehouses for deep cleaning. This could put strains on Amazon’s complex shipping operation, preventing customers from receiving vital supplies just when they need them most.
Amazon currently has more than 75 fulfillment centers and more than 125,000 full-time employees in North America. While it can handle the temporary loss of several warehouses, a rapid increase in the number of infected workers could result in delivery delays.
Earlier this month, Amazon upped its pay rate by $2 an hour in the U.S. through April and said it plans to hire 100,000 new full- and part-time positions across the country in response to the pandemic, which could ease the pressure on its shipping operation if more workers get sick. It also announced a $25 million relief fund to help delivery drivers and seasonal workers who find themselves under financial stress during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In addition, employees who contract the virus, or who need to go into quarantine because of close contact with an infected worker, will receive two weeks of pay in addition to unpaid leave for a limited period.
But some Amazon warehouse workers still feel the company is failing to offer adequate assistance during the coronavirus outbreak, with a growing number of them signing a petition demanding help such as paid sick leave without requiring a positive coronavirus diagnosis or quarantine, childcare costs where school closures impact workers, and hazard pay for increased risk to health during the outbreak.
Amazon told Digital Trends last week that it’s put in place “measures to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance, and adding distance between drivers and customers when making deliveries.”
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