COVID-19 Cases at Amazon Offer Big Lesson to Nation

Published on October 4, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a persistent problem in this country, one that does not seem to be going away any time soon. The highly contagious virus has shown that it does not discriminate after making it all the way to the White House and infecting President Trump, his family, and quite a few members of his cabinet. We have spent the past six months trying to figure out how to best navigate this global crisis as a nation to varying degrees of success. The United States has the highest case count worldwide and the most cases in a developed country by far—and one of the biggest issues was working out safety protocols for essential workers. On Thursday, Amazon offered some insight into how the virus was managed among their frontline workers.

There is something to be learned from Amazon’s low infection rate.

At the beginning of the pandemic, safety protocols and additional compensation were massive points of contention between front-line workers and Amazon. This lead to those workers at Amazon and their subsidiary, Whole Foods, to organize a massive multi-company strike on May Day. That strike was the culmination of efforts by essential workers to bring the scrutinizing eyes of an entire nation onto the health policies in place at the mega-corporation.

Amazon responded to the scrutiny with the company’s prototypical efficiency. They gave employees electronic devices that alerted them to when they were violating social distancing policies, the availability of personal protective equipment was increased substantially, and Amazon enacted more forgiving sick leave policies that allowed workers to take paid time off to prevent the spread of the virus.

In a blog post that Amazon published recently, the company updated the public with how its employees have fared since March 1st. In that time, 19,816 front-line employees tested positive (or are presumed positive) for COVID-19 out of a front-line workforce of 1,372,000 at Amazon and Whole Foods. That means that only 1.4% of their most at-risk employees came down with the virus, a figure that is an impressive 42% under the national average. That rate is a massive success considering the high-risk nature of essential work. Amazon’s front-line employees were going to work every day while the case numbers exploded and Amazon’s corporate offices adjusted their protocols in response. Over time the company made additional adjustments as new information became readily available.

Unlike businesses like bars and restaurants that had time to thoroughly evaluate all of the information available because of being temporarily shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon and Whole Foods employees went to work throughout the entire outbreak. Even with the new protocols, Amazon expected 33,952 cases in their workforce—a number that is on par with the national infection rate.

There is a big lesson be learned from Amazon’s news: the virus can be contained by everyone following the simple guidelines recommended by the WHO and CDC. So, wear your mask, social distance, and maybe this can all be over sooner rather than later.

Justin Shamlou is a Senior Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Miami, he covers international news, consumer brands, tech, art/entertainment, and events. Justin started his career covering the electronic music industry, working as the Miami correspondent for Magnetic Mag and US Editor for Data Transmission.

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