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At least one employee at an Amazon fulfillment center in Edison, New Jersey has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, two workers told BuzzFeed News. Employees at that location were notified of the infection on Wednesday, but the facility remains operational.
“We are supporting the individual who is recovering,” an Amazon spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We are following guidelines from local officials and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site.”
The Amazon spokesperson said the infected employee most recently reported to work on March 19, and that the company is taking measures to reduce the risk of infection at the facility. The company didn’t respond to questions about why it’s keeping sites where employees have been infected open.
Around the world, over 1,800 Amazon employees have signed a petition demanding better protections during the pandemic, including that “[i]n the event a coworker tests positive for coronavirus, the facility must be shut down and workers given paid leave at their normal pay rate while the facility is thoroughly sterilized and workers are tested for the virus.”
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An employee at the Edison fulfillment center said workers were being encouraged to stand apart from one another to comply with social distancing, but that there was limited hand sanitizer and no masks.
Previously, Amazon employees told BuzzFeed News they weren’t being given enough time to wash their hands and that cleaning of their facilities has been minimal.
An Amazon employee in Florida who requested anonymity to protect their employment said conditions in his workplace have not improved.
“Sanitation on the premises has been improved by hiring an extra person, before [there] was only one,” he said. “Thick layers of dust and dirt are everywhere, on the floors, the racks and shelves and all the bags we use to make deliveries, causing regular allergies to all employees, so coughing and sneezing is standard for everybody.”
The Athena Coalition, a group of more than 50 activist organizations working on issues related to Amazon, hosted a call for employees to share their safety concerns.
“Over the last week, Amazon has failed to demonstrate a cohesive, long-term plan to establish safe working conditions for drivers and workers at its warehouses and distribution centers,” the Athena Coalition said via email. “Workers have publicly voiced concerns that they are bearing the brunt of the responsibility to keep their co-workers and Amazon customers safe and to ensure they and their co-workers are not returning to their families and communities infected with COVID19. With new positive cases arising every day across the country, worker anxiety has begun to spike.”