Amazon has closed one of its warehouses in New Jersey amid a rise in COVID-19 cases among its workers.
In a statement to FN, the e-commerce behemoth confirmed that it recorded an increase in the number of asymptomatic positive infections at its PNE5 facility in the northern part of the state, leading it to shut down the site until Dec. 26 “out of an abundance of caution.” It shared that it discovered the cases through its in-house COVID-19 testing program, which involves the regular screening of employees, whether or not they are showing symptoms.
“This is exactly why we built the program — to identify asymptomatic cases and ensure that we can take swift action to prevent spread,” explained spokesperson Leah Seay. “All employees will be paid for the shifts that they’ll miss.”
Amazon did not specify the number of workers who contracted the illness at the sorting center.
As previously announced, the Seattle-based company has tapped a team of research scientists, program managers, procurement specialists and software engineers to focus on the testing initiative. It added that it has also distributed more than 100 million face masks, implemented temperature checks at its locations, mandated enhanced cleaning procedures and introduced extensive social distancing measures to help reduce its employees’ risk of contracting the virus.
In October, Amazon made headlines with its announcement that nearly 20,000 had either tested positive or been presumed positive for the novel coronavirus. The online retailer explained at the time that it conducted a “thorough analysis of data” on all of its 1,372,000 United States-based Amazon and Whole Foods Market frontline workers who were employed at any point from March 1 to Sept. 19.
Based on the study, Amazon estimated that it would have seen 33,952 cases among its workforce if the rate was the same as it was for the general population. Instead, it said its positive case rate was 42% lower than rates in the general population, as reported by Johns Hopkins University researchers, plus accounting for the geography and age of its employees.
Since the outbreak touched down in the U.S., more than 17.85 million people have been sickened by COVID-19. Deaths have surpassed 317,600.