But behind the scenes, Amazon is closely monitoring the spread of the virus in at least one warehouse, according to an internal memo read by CNN Business. And its own data may raise new concerns about the rate of infections in its facilities.
Amazon previously claimed that coronavirus cases “arise at about a rate generally just below what the actual community infection rates are,” according to Amazon SVP of Global Operations Dave Clark. But the internal note reveals that the infection rate in an Amazon warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, is significantly higher than in surrounding communities.
The Shakopee facility, known as MSP1, has an infection rate of 1.7%, according to the memo, first reported by Bloomberg. According to the memo, five local counties had lower rates. For example, Scott County, where Shakopee is located, had an infection rate of 0.1%, according to the memo; the infection rate in Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, had a rate of 0.4% over the same period.
The memo, which appears to be up to May 18, further breaks down the departments, teams and counties of the 45 confirmed workers with coronavirus. The granular details highlight how closely the company keeps an eye on the cases, even though it has chosen not to disclose this information to workers.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our teams. We have redeployed many of our scientists, technologists and operations staff to focus on Covid-19 and keep our staff safe, including thousands of people on our health and safety teams, “said the spokesperson. Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said in a statement to CNN Business. Cheeseman added that “an in-depth site analysis is one of the many tools that help us assess the full picture of our buildings related to Covid-19.”
Amazon, which has not denied the existence of the memo, has not answered the question of whether it collects similar information on its other sites.
“We use a variety of data to closely monitor the security of our buildings and there is strong evidence that our employees are not spreading the virus at work – what we generally find is that the overall rate of infection and the increase or decrease in the total number of cases is strongly correlated with the overall rate of infection in the community, “said Cheeseman in the release. “During the months of Covid-19, thousands of employees and partners have worked on our Shakopee site and we firmly believe that people are not spreading the virus at work given the robust security measures we have put in place in place. ”
Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health said that 88 workers at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus, revealing a glimpse of the numbers Amazon has repeatedly refused to release to the public. The Minnesota Department of Health told CNN Business on Tuesday that 92 workers at the facility have now tested positive, with a total of 198 workers at the Amazon facilities in Minnesota.
According to the memo, Amazon is “regularly engaged” with the Minnesota Department of Health and the relevant county health departments regarding positive cases. But the note also shows a strong desire by workers for more information. In the first two weeks of May, according to the memo, the Shakopee facility saw “64% of security comments requiring transparency of details about people infected with Covid. [Amazon Associates], requesting information about the team, the total number and the most recent information. “
Some workers believe that the new internal data revealed validate the safety concerns expressed by workers in recent months. Several workers, including at least one at the Shakopee plant, have been made redundant at various Amazon facilities in the United States after voicing the company’s alleged inadequate response to the coronavirus. (Amazon previously stated that the Shakopee worker was fired for “inappropriate language, behavior and violation of social distancing guidelines.)
“This note shows [Amazon] knows the details, but they hid it from us, “said Hibaq Mohamed, who has worked as an Amazon associate for more than three and a half years at the Shakopee plant and advocated for greater caution. security. They don’t ‘I don’t want to tell us – but this virus is deadly. ”
William Stolz, an Amazon associate at the Shakopee plant, told CNN Business that “the published data really supports everything workers have been saying for several months about the severity of the spread on Amazon.”
Amazon saw demand increase during the pandemic while people stay at home and see their products and services as a lifeline for essential household items. But it has also become an increasingly detailed subject regarding the working conditions of its 110 order processing centers in North America with 400,000 employees.
The company has been pressured by more than a dozen attorneys general who have called on Amazon to release a state-by-state breakdown of confirmed cases of Covid-19 at its facilities as part of broader health and safety claims. workers. New York’s Attorney General’s office Letitia James interviewed workers at several Amazon facilities in New York as part of an investigation into workers ’concerns about security measures related to coronaviruses. The company is also facing legal action for alleged lack of protection from coronaviruses at its facilities in Staten Island.
Although the full extent of confirmed cases of coronavirus at its facilities is unknown, there have been at least 10 deaths among Amazon warehouse workers who tested positive for coronavirus. But even though the number of confirmed cases continues to grow across the country, Amazon has eliminated some of its coronavirus policies for workers, including unlimited leave without pay, a $ 2 hourly wage increase and double pay overtime. Amazon announced on Monday that it will distribute more than $ 500 million in “thank you bonuses” to front-line workers who were with the company throughout June.
Amazon said it shared with employees when there is a confirmed work case, but workers said the communication was inconsistent. For example, an Amazon spokesperson previously confirmed to CNN Business that, although it has already included a number of confirmed cases when notifying workers, it has stopped doing so because it does not believe that the number is useful.