Amazon informed staff on Thursday that it will no longer pay for COVID-19 leave if the employees requesting it are unvaccinated.

The news comes as more companies keep their vaccine policies despite the Supreme Court's decision in January not to uphold a workplace mandate by the Biden administration. Amazon also announced in the memo that workers must report their vaccination status by March 18. The company clarified that employees who are unvaccinated could take a week of unpaid time off if they choose to remain unvaccinated.

Staff was also told that they will no longer be required to wear face masks if they are fully vaccinated, but they should look for local guidance as well to be sure.

Previously Amazon had lifted mask mandates until December, when the Omicron variant surged. Amazon cited declining case numbers on Thursday as the main reason for the policy change, which includes guidance from medical experts and public health authorities.

"There has been a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases across the country over the past few weeks. Along with increasing vaccination rates across the country, this is a positive sign ‌we can return to the path to normal operations," part of the message read.

The e-commerce company assured workers that those with religious or medical exemptions would not face unpaid leave because of a COVID-19 diagnosis. Amazon is the largest employer in the U.S., with 1.6 million workers worldwide as of December, and around 1 million of them are U.S.-based, so its policies regarding masking and vaccines at any Amazon facility are often under closely watched scrutiny.

Amazon is also getting into the healthcare business, announcing Amazon Care which will provide telehealth services starting in the summer.

Amid many states and cities across the country announcing the lifting of indoor mask mandates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still advises that people wear masks indoors. President Joe Biden, however, refused to sharply criticize his fellow Democrats, only saying their decisions may be premature.

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