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Workers In 8 Amazon Warehouses Test Positive For Coronavirus

A man works at a distribution station at the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York.
Johannes Eiselle
AFP via Getty Images
A man works at a distribution station at the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York.

Updated at 11:35 p.m. ET

Workers in at least eight Amazon warehouses across the country have tested positive for the coronavirus, just as the e-commerce giant ramps up hiring to meet surging online sales.

In recent days, warehouse workers at two separate sites in New York City — in Staten Island and Queens — in addition to employees at warehouses in Jacksonville, Fla., Oklahoma City, Brownstown, Mich., Katy, Tex., Wallingford, Conn. and Shepherdsville, Ky., have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to media reports and Amazon officials.

In response, Amazon temporarily closed down facilities in some cases in order for the centers to be sanitized.

Amazon has announced it plans to hire 100,000 additional workers for warehouses and delivery services to meet the rise in orders to the company's fulfillment centers, as millions of Americans obey orders to stay indoors and turn increasingly to online shopping.

Hundreds of workers have signed a petitionsaying they do not think Amazon has done enough to ensure they are protected during the coronavirus-fueled boom for the company. The workers demanded hazard pay, paid sick leave and child care.

Among other demands, the workers asked that Amazon extend paid sick leave to part-time and seasonal delivery employees.

Amazon says employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined will have two weeks of pay in addition to unlimited unpaid leave through the end of March, as previously announced.

Additionally, Amazon has established a $25 million fund from which "independent delivery service partners and their drivers, Amazon Flex participants, and seasonal employees" under financial distress can apply for grants equal to up to two weeks if diagnosed with coronavirus or in quarantine.

An Amazon official told NPR that the company has increased "the frequency and intensity" of cleaning at all sites.

Amazon also has made changes at its work sites in accordance with social distancing, including eliminating standup meetings during shifts and staggering start and break times.

Still, workers say the $947 billion company can do more to safeguard them from the fast-spreading virus.

A New York-based group of Amazon warehouse workers says when a coronavirus case is confirmed in a facility, the site should be closed.

"The facility must be shut down and workers given paid leave at their normal pay rate while the facility is thoroughly sterilized and workers are tested for the virus," says Amazonians United NYC.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.