Amazon has confirmed that multiple employees at its sortation center in Mobile have tested positive for COVID-19, but while the company says it’s taking precautions to keep workers safe, some are still concerned.
Owen Torres, an Amazon spokesperson, confirmed to Lagniappe this week that there have been cases of COVID-19 at its facility in Mobile, though he did not give an exact number. He did say the company has taken steps to mitigate the spread of the disease, notify employees and support those who are sick.
“We are supporting the individuals who are recovering,” Torres said via email. “Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we expect to invest approximately $4 billion from April to June on COVID-related initiatives to get products to customers and keep employees safe.”
According to Amazon, that spending includes a projected $800 million for safety measures inside of its facilities that will pay for things like additional personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning, process paths that allow for greater social distancing and, eventually, its own in-house testing capabilities.
Amazon has previously stated it notifies employees when there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 within their facility, and that appears to be the case in Mobile. One employee, who spoke with Lagniappe on the condition her name not be used, shared multiple text messages showing those notifications.
On April 11, Amazon employees got their first text notification: “We have a confirmed case of COVID-19.”
It went on to list safety measures that have been implemented at the facility in Mobile and explained that any employees who may have been exposed to the infected person would be contacted individually.
On May 5, the same employee got another text from Amazon — this time confirming two new cases. At least four additional cases have confirmed via texts since May 8.
Last Thursday, the family of another employee at the sortation center announced on social media that a relative had tested positive for COVID-19 and encouraged other Amazon employees to get tested as well. Based on the prior notices from Amazon, that would be the sixth or seventh case within the facility, but an employee Lagniappe spoke with said she’s worried there are more that are going unreported.
“We have gotten several texts now saying that there has been positive cases, but we are not told an exact number,” she said. “They used to put a new case or two cases. Now they just say ‘additional cases’… not implying how many there are at this point. We don’t know who they are or what shift they work, and I find it very unlikely that they can tell who exactly they would have come in contact with.”
The employee said she has not yet been notified by Amazon of any possible exposure from a co-worker.
She and others online have still expressed some frustration over the situation, which despite Amazon’s efforts to make things safer, still seems dangerous to them.
One employee said she sought time off over concerns about a close family member being at risk for complications from COVID-19, but was allegedly told she’d have to test positive for the disease first.
Another employee said that’s what happened to her, and she’s now on paid leave recovering at home.
In a statement, Amazon said it does provide extra time off with full pay for any employee diagnosed with COVID-19. The company also said employees who come into close contact with someone with a positive case are asked to self-quarantine at home for 14 days and are compensated for that time as well.
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