Amazon Closes Warehouse After Asymptomatic Coronavirus Outbreak

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December 21, 2020 Topic: Public Health Region: Americas Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: AmazonCoronavirusCOVID-19WarehouseAsymptomatic

Amazon Closes Warehouse After Asymptomatic Coronavirus Outbreak

The New Jersey warehouse will be closed until after Christmas.

Amazon has announced that it is closing a warehouse in New Jersey until the day after Christmas after asymptomatic coronavirus cases were detected via the company’s in-house testing program.

Employees at the Robbinsville Township, New Jersey, facility, also known as PNE5, were informed over the weekend that the site would temporarily close. The e-commerce giant assured the workers that it would pay for any missed shifts.

“Through our in-house COVID-19 testing program, we detected an increase in the number of asymptomatic positive cases at our PNE5 facility in northern New Jersey and have proactively closed the site until December 26th out of an abundance of caution,” Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski said in a statement.

“This is exactly why we built the program—to identify asymptomatic cases and ensure that we can take swift action to prevent spread.”

Amazon did not divulge the total number of positive cases.

This isn’t the first time that the company has shuttered a facility due to the pandemic. In March, Amazon temporarily closed a delivery station in Queens, New York, after a worker tested positive. Later that month, it also closed a facility in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, after positive tests.

In October, Amazon revealed in a blog post that nearly twenty thousand of its workers, or 1.44 percent of the total, in the United States have contracted the virus.

Its analysis, however, suggested that the rate of infection among 1.4 million workers at Amazon and its Whole Foods subsidiary was 42 percent lower than the rate expected based on the broader population in the country. If the company’s infection rates were in line with the general population, the total number of cases would have reached nearly thirty-four thousand, the company said.

There have been at least eight confirmed Amazon worker deaths due to the coronavirus.

Amazon noted that it offers its employees comprehensive health insurance and paid time off for any individual who needs to be quarantined because of the coronavirus. The company added that thousands of coronavirus tests are being conducted daily—as many as fifty thousand tests a day across 650 facilities.

Last week, Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of retail operations, reportedly sent a letter to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel asking for warehouse workers, data center employees at Amazon Web Services, and Whole Foods workers to get access to coronavirus vaccines “at the earliest appropriate time.” He added that the company employs more than 800,000 people in the United States, making it the nation’s second largest employer behind Walmart.

“We request that the (CDC panel) continue to prioritize these essential workers who cannot work from home,” Clark wrote.

On Sunday, the panel voted that grocery workers should be one of the groups next in line for the vaccine.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters.