Amazon workers renew call for transparency as public health officials disclose new COVID cases

The pressure is building on Amazon to release data on the prevalence of COVID-19 among its employees as new cases come to light among warehouse workers.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon has declined to disclose data on coronavirus outbreaks at its facilities, instead of notifying workers on an individual basis if they may have been exposed to the virus. The lack of transparency is a source of tension among warehouse workers, leading some employees and outside parties to crowdsource their own data. Calls for broader safety protections and more transparency at Amazon are intensifying as economies across the U.S. reopen and cases rise.
Minnesota Public Health officials released new data this week revealing that at least 187 employees who work at Amazon facilities in the state have tested positive for COVID-19. The largest outbreak is at a Shakopee warehouse, where 88 workers tested positive in a 70-day period.
Amazon says that the infections are a result of community spread, not exposure at warehouses. The company has implemented new safety measures including temperature screening, contact tracing, and personal protective equipment. The issue is not unique to Amazon; manufacturing, food processing, and other facilities deemed “essential” during the pandemic are also struggling to contain the virus.
“We utilize a variety of data to closely monitor the safety of our buildings and there is strong evidence that our employees are not proliferating the virus at work — what we see generally is that the overall rate of infection and increase or decrease of total cases is highly correlated to the overall community rate of infection,” Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft told GeekWire in a statement. “Over the months of COVID-19, thousands of employees and partners have worked at our Shakopee site and we believe strongly people are not spreading the virus at work given the robust safety measures we’ve put into place.”
Despite those investments, warehouse workers across the country have organized walkouts and other demonstrations calling for more comprehensive safety measures.
Amazon workers in California’s Inland Empire are petitioning the company to shut down facilities that have experienced outbreaks and provide other protections. At least 60 workers at two Southern California warehouses tested positive for COVID-19, according to crowdsourced employee counts reported by the Desert Sun.
This month, federal health officials conducted a surprise inspection of an Amazon warehouse in Wisconsin after at least 60 workers tested positive for the virus, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Amazon says public health officials have inspected 91 of its facilities since March and cleared the company’s safety protocols in each case.
Estimates of how many Amazon employees have contracted the virus range. Jana Jumpp, an Amazon employee who has been tracking cases since the beginning of the pandemic, told The Los Angeles Times that more than 1,000 workers have been infected. Other Amazon workers are keeping informal tallies in Facebook groups. The worker advocacy organization United for Respect launched a tool that allows Amazon employees to publish reports of COVID cases and safety lapses. So far 751 reports have been filed.
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