Amazon: Our COVID-19 Infection Rate 42% Lower Than General Population

Amazon reported a total of 19,816 positive or presumed positive tests of COVID-19 infection among its 1.4 million U.S. frontline workers between March 1 and Sept, 19, which it says is 42% below the general population rate of 33,952 for that size group, based on data from Johns Hopkins.

The company put out the news in a blog Thursday. Its narrative runs counter to widespread employee protests and walkouts earlier this year, with some workers claiming higher-than-normal infection rates in Amazon’s many fulfillment and sortation facilities here and abroad.

It also comes days after an NBC News story that claimed some Amazon fulfillment workers have been complaining about a lack of transparency from the company regarding COVID-19 infections at its facilities, leaving them to piece together information on their own. Amazon confirmed in that account at least 10 of its workers had died from the outbreak.

Protesters continue to accuse the company of placing profits above worker safety as pandemic-driven ecommerce business surged, a charge Amazon vehemently denies. Some employees have even sued the company alleging unsafe conditions.

Amazon’s new report came from a 5,000-person global safety team Amazon assembled in March to deal with its COVID-19 response, pulling workers from a variety of regular assignments and hiring lab specialists, to conduct regular testing and establish and implement safety protocols.

Amazon said it’s conducting thousands of COVID-19 tests a day at 650 of its domestic facilities, planning to ramp that number up to 50,000 tests per day by November

“As part of this commitment, we’ve decided to publicly share the COVID-19 infection rates among Amazon front-line employees—something few if any companies and no other major retailers have done,” Amazon said in the post. “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.”

In early March, Amazon said, it placed 3-4 workers on paid quarantine for every worker who tested positive out of an abundance of caution. Since then, it said, social distancing and video-based contract tracing have reduced that to less than one person quarantined for every confirmed case.

“This means that our employees are at a very low risk of transmission in the workplace,” Amazon said. “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 again urged other companies to share their COVID-19 information, lamenting the lack of benchmarks and standards for doing so.

“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,” it said.

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