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Amazon Official Says Company Is Taking 'Every Precaution' After Workers Test Positive

As Americans stock up on — and often clear out — grocery staples and other household items, Amazon is taking on a growing role during the coronavirus outbreak.

At the same time, Amazon is trying to keep its nearly 800,000 employees worldwide — the bulk of whom work in the company's distribution centers — safe. Workers and local news reports have flagged positive tests for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in at least 11 Amazon warehouses in 10 states. Some employees say that they feel exposed when they go to work and that the company could be doing a better job at protecting them.

Addressing those concerns in an interview with NPR's Morning Editionon Friday, Jay Carney, Amazon's senior vice president for global corporate affairs and a former White House press secretary to President Barack Obama, said that keeping workers safe "is very important."

"We are taking every precaution we can," Carney said.


Interview Highlights

On what Amazon is doing to keep workers safe from the coronavirus

We've instituted protocols around deep cleaning facilities, screens, doorknobs, any area that's touched heavily, providing the kind of protective gear that is available to all of our employees.

And when anyone does not feel well or is diagnosed with COVID, they are sent home to take care of themselves, to get medical attention and to receive paid time off. When a facility does have somebody who's been diagnosed, different actions are taken depending on where that person worked and what kind of contact he or she had with other employees.

A Kentucky warehouse closed until April 1 after workers were diagnosed with the virus, while others reopened after a few hours of cleaning. Why are some warehouses treated differently?

Because our warehouses, fulfillment centers and distribution centers are different in terms of the density of employees that work there, the distances between the employees where they work, the equipment that they work with.

So judgments are based on the guidance that we've received from the CDC and the WHO and other health professionals about contact and what's likely in terms of contact and then protocols around deep cleaning are followed. In the case where a facility could be reopened quickly, that would mean it's because the employee had limited contact with other employees or worked in a very small space ... It's not random.

Listen to the fullMorning Edition conversation here.

Note: Amazon is one of NPR's sponsors.

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