Over the past couple of months, COVID-19 cases have been reported at Amazon warehouses in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. On May 14, Amazon confirmed the first death of an employee at its Jeffersonville facility due to coronavirus.
But exact numbers of cases are hard to pinpoint.
Charles Banks has worked out of Amazon's warehouse in Jeffersonville for nearly seven years sorting mostly shoes and clothing. As COVID-19 closed down businesses around the country, he said he had never been busier.
“It’s always just been about productivity," Banks said.
As he read about deaths among Amazon employees nationwide, and received text and voice messages from his company, noting new COVID-19 cases, his anxiety mounted.
“They don’t tell us what shift, they don’t tell us what department," said Banks.
On April 20, he learned he was positive himself.
“I noticed I had a low grade fever," he said.
He was quarantined at home for two weeks. Still feeling unwell, he said he hasn’t returned to work.
“I kind of get winded very easy," he explained.
He said one of his biggest concerns about going back to work is lack of transparency about COVID-19 cases.
He said he comes into close contact with about 200 people on a typical day as he works around the warehouse. Amazon told us they begin contact tracing as soon as they’re aware of confirmed cases, reviewing video footage to find out who was in close contact. They said those people are quarantined for 14 days, and paid for their time at home.
Jana Jumpp, another Amazon worker, said she’s on leave from Amazon’s Jeffersonville warehouse, worried about coronavirus.
“It’s scary," she said, referring to COVID-19 cases at her company.
“So that’s why we started tracking them," she said.
Since early April, she said she’s been in touch with Amazon workers around the country who send her their automated texts, emails, and voice messages about new cases. She puts it all into a spreadsheet.
“I’m getting case after case from different facilities," she said.
We’re not sharing her data because we can’t confirm its accuracy. Amazon wouldn’t confirm her numbers with us.
With more than 21,000 full time workers in Kentucky and Indiana, the company told us, in part: “Our rates of infection are at or below the rates of the communities where we operate. We alert every person at the site anytime there is a confirmed diagnosis.”
“That’s not enough," said Stewart Abney, an employment lawyer in Louisville.
Abney said while it’s important Amazon protects confidential health records, employees also deserve more information.
“That would at least require knowing what shift, what department, what area a person who tests positive was working in," he said.
Amazon told us they don’t share total cases because it could be taken out of context. Employees counter that only fuels their fear.
“We have to say let’s put our employees first," Jumpp, said.
From enhanced cleaning to more protective gear, Amazon said they’re enforcing over 150 changes to keep workers safe. However, employees we spoke with also want more transparency about positive cases so they can make decisions about their own safety.
Read the company's statement about workplace safety:
“Safety is our top priority and we are committed to ensuring a clean and safe workplace. We’ve implemented over 150 significant process changes—from enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to new efforts like disinfectant spraying. We’ve also distributed personal protective gear like masks across our entire operations network. We’ll continue to invest in safety, pay, and benefits for our teams who are playing an invaluable role in getting items to communities around the world.”
Source: Andre Woodson, an Amazon spokesperson
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