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Amazon: Nearly 20,000 Workers Got COVID-19, ‘Lower Than The Expected Number’

‘We hope sharing this data and our learnings will encourage others to follow, and will prove useful as states make decisions about reopening public facilities and employers consider whether and how to bring people back to work,’ the tech giant says.

Amazon on Thursday said it has had nearly 20,000 employees either test positive or presumed positive for COVID-19, but that number could have been higher given the trends the pandemic has shown in the U.S.

Amazon, in a Thursday blog post, said it did a thorough analysis of data on all of the Amazon and Whole Foods Market front-line employees in the U.S. from March 1 to September 19, or a total of 1,372,000 employees, and found that 19,816 of them tested positive or have been presumed positive for the coronavirus.

However, Amazon wrote, based on the COVID-19 case rates in the general population of the U.S., as reported by Johns Hopkins University during the same time period, Amazon could have seen an estimated 33,952 cases in its workforce.

[Related: The State Of IT Salaries And WFH Post-COVID-19: Hired Survey]

An Amazon spokesperson told CRN via email that the company was unable to provide any additional information outside the blog post. The spokesperson also did not say to whom the blog post was attributed, or whether Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos approved of the message or not.

Amazon said the number of cases it counted among its employees was conservative, and including both confirmed and presumptive cases. At the same time, the number of cases in the U.S. as a whole is likely under-counted because not everyone gets screened or tested for the coronavirus, while all Amazon employees are regularly screened for symptoms or are screened regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not.

Amazon said it is releasing the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases, something few if any other companies are doing, as a public service.

“We hope other large companies will also release their detailed learnings and case rates because doing so will help all of us. This is not an arena where companies should compete—this is an arena where companies should help one another,” the company wrote.

Amazon also said it wishes others would take similar steps in releasing their data.

“Wide availability of data would allow us to benchmark our progress and share best practices across businesses and industries. Unfortunately, there are no standards for reporting or sharing this data, and there‘s very little comparable information about infection rates and quarantine rates available from other companies. We all have a vested interest in returning to some version of normal and safely helping our communities and the economy. We hope sharing this data and our learnings will encourage others to follow, and will prove useful as states make decisions about reopening public facilities and employers consider whether and how to bring people back to work,” the company wrote.

Amazon wrote that it is currently conducting thousands of tests a day, and expects to conduct 50,000 tests a day across 650 sites by November.

“And because we‘ve built this testing capacity ourselves, we’re adding to the total number of tests available—not taking supply from others,” the company wrote.

In addition to widespread testing, the company quickly quarantines employees who test positive to help prevent spreading the coronavirus to others, Amazon wrote. The company also provides comprehensive health insurance, along with paid time off to any employee who needs to quarantine or receive treatment. Amazon has also distributed over 100 million face masks, eliminated stand-up meetings during shifts, staggered break times, increased the distance between chairs in break rooms, and other social distancing measures. It also does a thorough cleaning every 90 minutes, the company said.

The testing, combined with social distancing, have had a positive impact on cutting the spread of the virus among Amazon’s employees, Amazon wrote.

“In early March, when we first launched social distancing, we placed three or four employees on paid quarantine for each confirmed case. Since then, our enhanced social distancing measures and video-based contact tracing across our sites have reduced that number to a fraction of a person being required to quarantine per confirmed case. This means that our employees are at a very low risk of transmission in the workplace. And as we continue to ramp up testing, we‘ll be able to identify more people who are asymptomatic, quickly contact trace, enforce our quarantine process, and help to remove people from the community so they can recover before they infect others,” Amazon wrote.

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