KEY POINTS

  • Amazon said it embraced extreme measures to protect its employees at the warehouses against the viral pandemic
  • It instructed its employees, who were infected or came into contact with someone infected, to stay home with paid sick leave
  • Workers who have chosen to not report to work amid this ongoing crisis were given unlimited unpaid leave

Amazon warehouses have descended into crisis as at least 10 warehouses owned by the company were hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

With its workers testing positive for the disease over the week for COVID-19, Amazon is now grappling to supplement the basic necessities of tens and thousands of Americans observing self-quarantine.

The first known case of an Amazon employee contracting the disease was tied to a Queens facility based out of New York. The case was followed by yet another at a facility in Staten Islands, New York. The company said the person last reported to work on March 11 and was recovering in quarantine.

An employee at a facility in Joliet, Illinois, was also tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. More such cases were reported from Moreno Valley, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Shepherdsville, Kentucky; Brownstown, Michigan; Oklahoma City; Katy, Texas; and Wallingford, Connecticut. The dire escalation of cases forced the company to close some of its facilities, if not all.

The online retail giant said it was taking “extreme” measures to safeguard its employees at the warehouses against the coronavirus, including regularly sanitizing door handles, elevator buttons, lockers, and touch screens et al.

Earlier, scores of Amazon employees had signed a petition blasting the company for its “lack of protective measures,” while pushing for fair sick leave policies to protect the workforce, their families, and the public alike.

Amazon recently said in a blog post that it will weigh the need to close the facility wherein an employee had tested positive, based on a number of factors, including whether the employee was in the building and for how long. It also instructed employees who were infected or have come into contact with someone infected to stay home with an additional paid time off. Workers who have chosen to not report to work amid this ongoing crisis, or have been unable to for that matter, were rendered unlimited unpaid time off.

Meanwhile, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said in an email to all employees that it has changed its “logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third-party seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering essential items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies," adding that the company was providing service to those relying on it, especially the elderly who are the most vulnerable.

The coronavirus, however, continues pushing the company toward an insecure footing as visitors to its website are being warned of longer delivery times and asked to select no-rush shipping provided their need is not urgent. 

Amazon is being seen as a lifeline for many consumers hunkered down due to the virus pandemic but faces a test in living up to its new role Amazon is being seen as a lifeline for many consumers hunkered down due to the virus pandemic but faces a test in living up to its new role Photo: AFP / INA FASSBENDER