Amazon on Thursday informed its employees at a Dallas area warehouse that one of their colleagues was infected with coronavirus just a day after CEO Jeff Bezos paid a surprise visit to the facility while wearing a protective mask and getting a temperature check.
The company sent a memo to workers saying that the individual in question was last at the site on Monday.
‘Consistent with our daily processes, the site has undergone enhanced cleanings since the associate’s last day,’ the company informed its workers at the FTW6 warehouse just north of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
The news of the company’s announcement was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Bezos on Wednesday thanked staff at the warehouse and a nearby Whole Foods after employees nationwide staged a spate of strikes and sick-outs over working conditions during the pandemic.
The world’s richest man was filmed taking a temperature check and wearing a mask on his surprise visit.
He was seen waving to staff and thanking them, telling one: ‘I can’t shake your hand. It’s a hard habit to break.’
Amazon has faced a spate of strikes and sick-outs over working conditions as employees test positive for the coronavirus and others ask for more protections.
Five senators have written to Amazon founder Bezos after worker Chris Smalls was fired from his job following a protest at the company’s Staten Island plant.
In the letter they express ‘continued concern about working conditions at Amazon’.
An internal document leaked, in which Amazon’s general counsel described Smalls as ‘not smart, or articulate.’
The company has since said it is testing the use of disinfectant fog at the warehouse in Staten Island.
The virus has led to at least 469,450 cases across America – including workers at more than 50 Amazon facilities, according to a New York Times report.
Amazon posted the footage of Bezos visiting the store and factory on Wednesday.
The retail giant had earlier confirmed it is now tracking its warehouse staff; and will fire them for failing to socially distance themselves from their co-workers.
An Amazon spokesman told said they are taking ‘intense measures’ to ensure safety, adding: ‘We’ve had some instances of employees intentionally violating our clear guidelines on social distancing at our sites; which endangers both the individual and their colleagues.’
‘It is understood workers will be warned if they are caught failing to follow the new rules.
‘They may then be fired if are found to have broken them for a second time.’
The spokesman added: ‘Individuals who intentionally violate our social distancing guidelines will receive two warnings – on the second documented offense, termination may occur.’
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In response to the public backlash over workplace conditions, Amazon on Thursday said it is developing a lab that will screen employees for the coronavirus.
In a blog post, the world’s largest retailer said that it, too, has taken steps to protect its workforce.
The company said it has begun distributing masks to employees. It has also started to take temperature checks of workers at company-owned warehouses; fulfillment centers; and grocery stores.
To get the economy back up and running, Amazon said that it would require ‘regular testing on a global scale across all industries.’
But in the absence of readily available testing; the company said it has ‘begun the work of building incremental testing capacity.’
‘A team of Amazonians with a variety of skills – from research scientists and program managers to procurement specialists and software engineers; have moved from their normal day jobs onto a dedicated team to work on this initiative,’ the company said.
Amazon on Thursday announced that it is developing its own lab that will aim to provide testing of employees for COVID-19. Amazon employees are seen above at the company’s lab in an undisclosed location
‘We have begun assembling the equipment we need to build our first lab; and hope to start testing small numbers of our front line employees soon.
‘We are not sure how far we will get in the relevant time frame; but we think it’s worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn with others.’
Communications Workers of America members carry signs that read ‘Protect Our Lives! Protect America!’ as they take part in a protest to demand General Electric accelerate crisis response by manufacturing ventilators at GE plants including the plant in Lynn, Massachusetts.
IUE-CWA union GE (General Electric) workers take part in protest demanding the company to use the workforce to produce ventilators; and demanding more safety measures amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Lynn, Massachusetts on Wednesday
One of Amazon’s main competitors, Walmart, is also taking steps to offer protection for its workforce.
Doug McMillon, the president and CEO of Walmart, said that the company on Friday started temperature checks of its employees.
It has also implemented routine overnight cleanings of its locations, according to McMillon.
The retailer also installed plexiglass barriers at its cash registers; while implementing a policy of ‘metering’ customers so that there are a small number of them inside the store at one time.
Earlier this week, Walmart was sued for wrongful death after one of its employees at a Chicago-area store died of COVID-19.
The estate of Wando Evans filed the suit in Illinois on Monday; saying the Walmart store south of Chicago was not properly cleaned; and employees were not given masks; gloves; antibacterial wipes or other protective equipment.
Evans, 51 died on March 25, and another employee at the same store died four days later from complications due to coronavirus, according to the complaint.
The outbreak has now infected more than 470,000 nationwide and killed at least 16,700.
Arkansas-based Walmart said it had conducted ‘a deep-cleaning of key areas’ in the Illinois store; which has passed a health department inspection and a separate third-party review over the last week; according to a statement provided by a spokesman.
‘We have taken steps across the country to protect our associates and customers; including additional cleaning measures; installing sneeze guards at registers; placing social distancing decals on the floors; and limiting the number of customers in a store at a given time,’ the company said.
The lawsuit filed by Evans’ estate accuses Walmart of negligence and wrongful death in violation of Illinois law.