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10/02/2020

Nearly 20,000 Amazon workers tested COVID-19 positive

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon says its frontline workforce has a lower positive COVID-19 test rate than the general population.

According to Amazon, analysis of data on all 1,372,000 Amazon and Whole Foods Market frontline workers across the U.S. employed at any time from March 1 to September 19, 2020 reveals that 19,816 employees have tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19. This is a roughly 1.4% positive test rate. 

Comparing its COVID-19 case rates to the general population, as reported by Johns Hopkins University for the same period, accounting for geography and age composition of employees, the retailer estimates there would been 33,952 cases among its workforce. This represents a roughly 2.5% positive test rate. Amazon’s reported rate is 42% lower than that expected number.

Amazon launched an initiative to develop a proprietary COVID-19 test in April and ramped up its efforts in June. Amazon also spent more than $4 billion on a variety of initiatives to assist employees in dealing with COVID-19 during Q2 2020, including testing.

The e-tail giant says it now conducts thousands of tests a day and will grow to 50,000 proprietary tests a day across 650 sites by November, without taking any test supply from others. Amazon employees are regularly screened for COVID-19 symptoms and are increasingly being tested at work, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms, in order to identify asymptomatic cases. In early March, when it first launched social distancing, the company says it placed three or four employees on paid quarantine for each confirmed case. Since then, Amazon credits enhanced social distancing measures and video-based contact tracing across its sites for reducing that number to a fraction of a person being required to quarantine per confirmed case. 

Amazon says testing is one of more than 150 processes it has instituted or changed to ensure the health and safety of employees, including distributing over 100 million face masks, implementing temperature checks at sites around the world, mandating enhanced cleaning procedures at all sites, and introducing social distancing measures to reduce the risk for employees. 

The company has also eliminated stand-up meetings during shifts, moved information sharing to bulletin boards, staggered break times, and spread out chairs in breakrooms, among other steps. Cleaning occurs across each site about every 90 minutes to sanitize door handles, stairway handrails, lockers, elevator buttons, and touch screens.