An Amazon warehouse worker in Queens, New York confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, the first case for the online retail giant and in the US delivery network.
A spokesperson for the company said they are supporting the individual who was now in quarantine. And they have been practising enhanced daily deep cleaning at its facilities.
Amazon temporarily closed the delivery station in Queens for further sanitizing and sent employees home with full pay. A delivery station is smaller than the so-called fulfilment center. There thousands of people work alongside robots to pack and ship orders.
The group did not specify the number of workers at the Queens warehouse. The spokesperson declined to comment on when the facility will resume operations.
While two office employees at its Seattle headquarters have been diagnosed with COVID-19, this is the first positive case of the virus among the hourly Amazon warehouse workers in the US.
It is still uncertain if the coronavirus can spread through packages. The CDC stated that there is likely a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped. The spread is unlikely after a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.
However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said on Tuesday that scientists have found that COVID-19 can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
Amazon Faces Tough Decisions
The news came as Amazon tries to tackle serious challenges. On the one hand, the company has become increasingly vital to consumers staying at home.
The group announced on Monday that it would boost its workforce further by adding 100,000 new warehouses and delivery personnel to keep up with demand.
Amazon warehouses are also prohibited from stocking and shipping non-essential items for the next three weeks. This as the retail giant focuses on restocking important goods that have run out of stock. They are also stepping up delivery times.
At the same time, the company needs to ensure that its employees, who keep its retail engine running, are safe and willing to work.
That challenge has become apparent after a few COVID-19 cases were reported in at least three of its European depots. The report prompted the unions there this week to push Amazon to reduce shifts and shut the establishments for sanitization.
Absenteeism in its main logistics hub in Italy has climbed by 30% in recent weeks, according to sources.
The incident in the Queens facility has also spooked some warehouse workers. They are already concerned for their own safety because of the risk the job currently poses due to the pandemic.
Sortation associate and member of the Amazonians United Jonathan Bailey said the case clearly shows a disregard for their health and safety.
Amazon has prepared a $25 million relief fund to provide all of its workers, who have contracted the COVID-19 or have been subjected to quarantine, with two weeks of sick pay.