(Bloomberg)—Amazon.com Inc. said an employee who worked in a Staten Island warehouse died from COVID-19, heightening concerns among workers that the online retail giant isn’t doing enough to protect those toiling through the pandemic.
The employee, whose identity wasn’t disclosed, last worked at the New York facility on April 5 and notified Amazon April 11 that he had tested positive for COVID-19, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. The man’s family told Amazon about his death Monday, and warehouse managers began alerting workers Monday evening. He had no known contact with any other employees since getting sick, according to Amazon.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of an associate at our site in Staten Island,” Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski said. “His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues.”
At least five Amazon employees have died from coronavirus-related illnesses, according to news reports. The Staten Island worker’s death was reported earlier by the Verge.
People who worked at Amazon warehouses in Hawthorne and Tracy, California, have died of COVID-19. So have at least two employees of Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market. The Seattle-based company and other retailers such as Walmart Inc. have faced calls to do more to protect employees following deaths in their employee ranks.
During the pandemic, Amazon has been overwhelmed by demand from shoppers ordering products online while they remain home to minimize exposure to the virus, and the company is hiring 175,000 workers to help keep up. Amazon staffers have staged demonstrations around the country asking the company to increase efforts to keep them safe from the outbreak, including closing facilities for more thorough cleaning.
Amazon has said it is checking employee temperatures at the beginning of shifts, cleaning facilities, increasing space between workers and taking other safety measures. CEO Jeff Bezos last week said the company would spend $4 billion to get products to customers and keep workers safe while operating through the outbreak.
The company hasn’t disclosed how many workers have tested positive for COVID-19, creating anxiety among staffers who sometimes learn about cases informally in online chat rooms. Amazon said it uses contact tracing and video surveillance to identify colleagues who have worked in close proximity to those who have been infected.
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