Coronavirus: Rent Revolt, Frontline FC Workers, Drivers, Retailers Chip In

An empty mall in Burlington, MA (photo credit: Marissa Tannis for Business Insider)

The impacts of the coronavirus spread include more warehouse workers and delivery drivers testing positive, forcing facilities to close temporarily so they can be scrubbed and restarted.

Drivers and grocery associates are now front-line soldiers in the coronavirus war, risking exposure more than the rest of us to ensure that business continues, medical supplies arrive where and when they’re needed and the massive volume of ecommerce orders is fulfilled.

Amazon, always the gold standard of immediacy and instant gratification, is telling Prime members some items will take a month to fulfill, according to media reports. The company said this is due to its decision last week to prioritize essential items through its Fulfillment By Amazon service until at least April 5.

Mall owners are facing a major rent revolt from retail tenants, who claim force majeure provisions in their contracts free them from payment obligations as mandated shutdowns have forced them out of business. And the retail landscape may never be the same.

Hobby Lobby is facing a PR firestorm over keeping its distribution center open in Oklahoma City and refusing sick pay, although it did finally close its stores after an order from Gov. John Stitt.

Amazon workers in at least 10 sortation and fulfillment centers in the U.S. have tested positive, according to various reports, including incidents this week in Shepherdsville, KY, Oklahoma City, Joliet, IL, Jacksonville, FL and Moreno Valley, CA. The first case was at an Amazon sorting facility in Queens, NY, near LaGuardia Airport; another case was reported this week at an Amazon facility on Staten Island NY.

Amazon says it has instituted a number of safety measures and protocols in its facilities to counteract the spread.

The U.S. Postal Service is taking new steps to ensure worker safety after more than three dozen have tested positive across the country. Also, the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package approved by the Congress late Wednesday includes $10 billion for the USPS to make up for revenue loss, and allows for drivers to utilize “temporary delivery points” to lessen the risk of exposure.

Many companies are stepping up to do their part in the fight. FedEx is helping the federal government task force by picking up COVID-19 test specimens from more than 50 testing centers in 12 states, while UPS is supporting drive-through COVID-19 test sites throughout the country.

On the retail side, Harbor Freight is donating masks and gloves to hospital workers, while Neiman Marcus and Joann Stores employees are making nonsurgical masks, gowns and scrubs at Neiman Marcus alterations facilities in California, New Jersey and Florida.

Also, Gap Inc. is working with its vendors to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to a large hospital network in California, while some of its suppliers will begin making “masks, gowns & scrubs for healthcare workers on the front lines,” the company tweeted.