Almost 20,000 Amazon employees in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19, drawing public criticism from human rights groups who said the retailer did little to protect its workers from contracting the disease. Before the company admitted to the number of coronavirus positives in its rank and file, activists had been pressuring the organization to publicly disclose the number of staffers that are sick with the pandemic.
Amazon profited and grew exponentially during the coronavirus lockdown since millions of Americans took to the internet to purchase things online from the company. In fact, many people across the world made online purchases during the COVID-19 lockdown and many people from across the globe patronized Amazon during this period, prompting the company to hire more employees with potential plans to open more neighborhood stores.
But then, many groups criticize the company for keeping their warehouses open, saying the practice will endanger the health of workers and put other people in harm’s way. Activists even called for the government to exercise increased oversight on the retailer’s operations with a particular focus on revealing the number of employees who are down with coronavirus.
In its announcement, Amazon stated that the rate of coronavirus infection among its 1.4 million employees is 42% lower than the rate anticipated given the wider US population. The company said employees in Minnesota has the highest number of infection given that 3.17% of its total workforce is believed to have contracted COVID-19. However, the retailer failed to disclose the actual number of infected employees in each state of the US and whether those in warehouses are more infected than others in other departments.
“Amazon allowed Covid-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon – as well as their family members, neighbors, and friends,” said Dania Rajendra, director at Athena, a coalition of US activist groups demanding for increased government regulation at Amazon. “Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.”
Amazon announced a few months ago that it will be conducting its own COVID-19 testing program and that before the end of the year, 50,000 coronavirus tests in 650 centers will be conducted per day. The company said it has implemented extensive health and safety protocols to protect employees from contracting or spreading the disease, adding that infected workers are quarantined and paid even in the face of comprehensive health insurance for all workers.