Amazon closes warehouse in New Jersey after Covid-19 infections

Peter Endig | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon closed a warehouse in northern New Jersey until December 26 after there was a surge in asymptomatic coronavirus cases.

Workers at the Robbinsville Township, New Jersey facility known as PNE5 were informed on Saturday that the site would be temporarily closed, according to a notice from CNBC.

Amazon employees are paid for any shifts they miss while the facility is closed, Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski told CNBC in a statement.

“Through our internal COVID-19 testing program, we have seen an increase in the number of asymptomatic positive cases at our PNE5 facility in northern New Jersey and we are proactively closing the site by December 26 as a precaution,” said Levandowski. “It is precisely for this reason that we developed the program to identify asymptomatic cases and ensure that we can take quick action to prevent them from spreading.”

Levandowski did not immediately respond to questions about the total number of cases at PNE5 or whether the building was subject to additional cleaning when closed.

Amazon announced in October that nearly 20,000 frontline workers signed Covid-19 between March 1 and September 19. At that point, the infection rate among employees was 42% lower than expected in the US compared to the general population rate

Amazon previously closed other facilities for short periods after new coronavirus cases were logged. In March, Amazon temporarily closed a delivery station in Queens, New York after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. That month, a facility in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, was also closed after several employees there tested positive.

Most of Amazon’s warehouses remained open during the pandemic as they were seen as essential facilities alongside grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks, among other things.

The company previously stated that it had “gone to great lengths” to keep the facilities clean and to ensure that employees are following the necessary safety precautions, such as: B. wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer, practicing social distancing, and other activities. Amazon also set up test sites in a significant portion of its warehouses and ran thousands of tests a day in October.

Still, warehouse and delivery workers in the US have urged Amazon to do more to protect frontline workers, including reintroducing temporary pay increases and providing paid sick leave.

Amazon is among several companies battling for priority access to the coronavirus vaccine for their employees. Last week, Dave Clark, who runs Amazon’s retail stores, wrote to a panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urging warehouse workers, Whole Foods and data center workers “to get the Covid-19 vaccine at the earliest opportunity receive”.

On Sunday, the CDC panel voted that people aged 75 and over and key personnel should be on the front lines for the coronavirus vaccine, next. Firefighters, police officers, teachers, grocers, public transport and postal workers are essential Level 1b workers. It is expected that other key workers will join the third wave of recipients.

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