Amazon confirms the first known COVID-19 case in a US warehouse

Christine Fisher
Contributing Writer
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Amazon temporarily closed a warehouse in Queens, New York, after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. While two office workers at Amazon's Seattle headquarters have been diagnosed with COVID-19, this is the first confirmed case in a US warehouse, The Atlantic reports. This comes as Amazon is working to keep up with a "significant increase in demand" and hiring an additional 100,000 warehouse employees.

Workers at the facility were notified via text Wednesday night that a positive case had been reported. The employee is receiving medical care and is quarantined, and all other employees were sent home with full pay. Thursday, Amazon told Engadget that it has reopened the facility.

"In addition to our enhanced daily deep cleaning, we've temporarily closed the Queens delivery station for additional sanitation and have sent associates home with full pay," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Amazon put out a call for additional warehouse workers. It is offering an extra $2 per hour through the end of April, and the company says it is taking additional safety measures to protect employees. It has created an Amazon Relief Fund, with an initial $25 million investment, to provide additional financial support to its workers, and any employee diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine will receive up to two weeks of pay. All hourly employees have access to unlimited paid time off through the end of March.

While Amazon is encouraging employees who can work from home to do so, hourly workers in its warehouse and distribution centers cannot work from home. Amazon is filling a critical need for many, shipping supplies that may not be available locally. It has said it will prioritize cleaning and medical supply shipments, but if facilities are forced to close because of positive COVID-19 cases, the company will face an additional challenge.

Update 3/19/2020 1:10PM ET: Amazon told Engadget that it has reopened the facility.