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After months of demands for public disclosures from activists, Amazon revealed that nearly 20,000 of its US workers had contracted the novel coronavirus.
Facing criticism from labor organizers that the company has put employees in danger by keeping warehouses open, the US tech giant has been one of the pandemic's biggest winners, with consumers worldwide transitioning to online shopping during the lockdowns.
In a blogpost, Amazon tried to defend the numbers by claiming that the rate of infection among its 1.4 million workers, including at its Whole Foods subsidiary, was 42% less than expected, given the general U.S. population's rates of infection.
Despite withholding absolute numbers of infected workers in each state and failing to clarify whether or not warehouse workers were more vulnerable, Amazon revealed that the highest infection rate has been in Minnesota, where the 3.17% infection rate is more than double that of the general population.
The $1.2 trillion multinational, whose CEO Jeff Bezos is the world's richest person, says it has been investing hundreds of millions of dollars into its own coronavirus testing program, and that it plans to conduct 50,000 daily tests in over 650 sites by November.
Yes, Trump has COVID, but don’t let that distract from the fact that Amazon just disclosed that nearly 20,000 workers have tested positive since the pandemic began. This is after workers repeatedly called out Amazon for endangering their health and safety.https://t.co/5R4cwSPU3o
However, activist groups call for immediate investigations into the company by public health officials and regular reporting on the number of employees who have contracted COVID-19.
Dania Rajendra, the director of a coalition organization pushing for increased regulatory control over Amazon, Athena, said in a statement: "Amazon allowed COVID-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon—as well as their family members, neighbors and friends. Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health."
While Amazon's blogpost claims the corporation offers employees comprehensive health insurance and paid time off for workers who need to quarantine, workers' accounts and organized walk-outs tell a different story, including a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), violations of physical distancing guidelines, no employee hazard pay and other egregious labor practices.