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Amazon will not say how many workers got COVID-19. The workers therefore follow the cases themselves


Usually Jana Jumpp works nights loading trucks at an Amazon facility the size of 28 football fields in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Now she spends them locked in her room, slamming on her lazy computer.

Emails and Facebook messages from Amazon employees in warehouses across the country are dropping.

2 cases at DEW8

Additional case covid19 to DML2

2 other confirmed cases @ Ric2. The total is now 11, of which we have been informed.

She has accumulated 52 new messages between Sunday and Wednesday afternoon this week. Jumpp said that number could climb to 15 overnight.

A shopper at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C., checks a package of tomatoes.

(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

Jumpp has a counterpart at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, Katie Doan, who has been collecting cases since April 2. The two women have never spoken to each other, but they describe almost identical work in the field of a torrent of private messages, searching for Facebook groups, Reddit, Twitter, and media outlets for infection reports and updating. meticulous day of Google documents with numbers.

Jumpp and Doan, who until this week worked at a store in Tustin, a town in Orange County, say they are doing this because their co-workers don’t feel safe; they are not able to assess the risk of showing up for work in their warehouse or store because Amazon will not tell them how many people have been infected there.

As of Wednesday, 343 Whole Foods employees had tested positive, according to crowdsourced data in a publicly available Google document. Of those, 44 cases are in 24 stores across California. At least four Whole Foods employees have died, including a manager at a Pasadena store.

Nationwide, Jumpp documented 1,079 cases of coronavirus among warehouse workers on Wednesday and confirmed nine deaths.

Aggregate numbers almost certainly underestimate the spread of the virus among warehouse workers at Whole Foods and Amazon.

Still, Amazon questioned the idea that it should provide more comprehensive data. An Amazon spokesperson said the company is tracking site-level information but does not release aggregate numbers because those numbers may contain outdated information – cases that were resolved weeks or months ago. – and are therefore not informative for workers.

The total number of infections in the warehouses “Not particularly usefulDave Clark, senior vice president of global operations at Amazon, said in a CBS “60 minutes” interview broadcast in early May.

Dr David Eisenman, director of the Center for Public Health and Disasters at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, disagreed. He said the type of data, correctly gathered, is crucial to reducing future infections of employees and understanding what types of job sites and occupations are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Saying that aggregate data isn’t useful is like pulling wool over your eyes. Of course it is useful, we are using it to reopen the country, “Eisenman said.

Legally, Amazon has the right to shut down before the transparency Jumpp and Doan are trying to create. Food companies are advised to report confirmed cases of the coronavirus to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and representatives from Amazon and Whole Foods told The Times they are reporting confirmed cases to local health authorities. But they don’t have to.

It is not mandatory for a company to disclose infections to workers unless they are identified as close contacts and undergo quarantine, said the L.A. County Office of Disease Control.

In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski detailed the measures the company has taken to protect workers, such as implementing social distancing, increasing disinfectant spraying, checks temperature and the distribution of personal protective equipment.

“Our primary concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we plan to invest approximately $ 4 billion from April to June in COVID-related initiatives to deliver products to customers and keep people safe. employees, ”Levandowski said. “This includes spending over $ 800 million in the first half of the year for COVID-19 security measures.”

After someone at an Amazon or Whole Foods establishment tests positive for COVID-19, coworkers usually receive alerts in the form of text messages or automated voicemail. “We continue to follow the advice of the CDC and will advise anyone who may have had close contact. We have taken steps to ensure your safety, ”a typical notification read.

Jumpp, who manages the Amazon case list with the help of several other employees, only includes cases in her tally when she can confirm them with documentation: screenshots of internal company texts or downloaded voice messages.

Unlike Jumpp’s tally, the Whole Foods list also includes references to cases posted on Reddit and Twitter. A disclaimer at the top says that cases reported from social media are not “100% verified.”

The fragility of the notification system complicates these efforts. Sometimes workers only receive notifications after a long delay. Sometimes they never come.

At a Whole Foods store in Laguna Niguel, Orange County, notifications are issued seemingly at random. An employee said she received an automated voicemail message regarding the first confirmed case, but not subsequent text alerts. She asked not to be named because she feared professional repercussions.

Kai Lattomus, an employee at the same store, received four notifications – one robocall and three text messages. But when he mentioned them to his colleagues, he said, “more than half of the people you asked would have no idea, and you just informed them.”

While the data collected also lists four cases in the Laguna Niguel store, Whole Foods disputed that there had been four confirmed cases in the store. A spokeswoman said there were less than four, but declined to specify the number of cases.

April 2nd The Times confirmed that a third worker had tested positive at an Amazon fulfillment center in Riverside County, but employees did not receive notification from the company until five days later. Employees complaints filed state and county regulators alleging the delay put thousands of workers at the facility at risk.

Amazon and Whole Foods warehouse workers said that as the number of cases in a facility or store increased, the business generally became less open.

On May 8, an employee of CVG2, a warehouse in Hebron, Ky., Received a notification of “additional confirmed cases” at the facility and forwarded it to Jumpp. While previous posts have clarified the number of additional cases, this one did not.

Jumpp updated his tally, increasing CVG2’s tally from four to five.

But three days later, a CVG2 worker contacted Jumpp to tell him that his tally for the facility was incorrect.

In an internal May 11 memo, Chief Executive Officer Paul Swaim said the facility actually had 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19. He said he received comments from employees that the company’s SMS notification systems were often down or sometimes not at all.

“I realize that this confusion can make it seem like we’re less than transparent in the total number of cases on the site,” he wrote, according to a screenshot of the memo reviewed by The Times. “I am happy to provide this information to you at any time – please just ask.”

The breakdown in communication cannot always be linked to technology.

At Whole Foods on Fairfax Avenue and 3rd Street in Los Angeles, two employees – who requested anonymity – suspected something was happening on the morning of April 2. grounds for termination. The other learned night workers were told not to come in because a deep cleaning was scheduled. When the first employee asked a supervisor if anyone had tested positive, he was told to stop spreading rumors.

The two employees woke up the next morning to automated voicemail messages informing them of the first confirmed case of coronavirus in their store.

When asked what time store managers learned of the confirmed case and why workers were told otherwise, Whole Foods spokeswoman Rachel Malish said in an email that the company was not “ able to go into all of the details out of respect for the confidentiality of our Team Members. ”

The Fairfax and 3rd Street store has since had three additional employees tested positive for the virus.

Amazon spokeswoman Levandowski said the company was reviewing video footage of employees who tested positive and contacting workers known to have been within six feet of those infected for more than 15 minutes. A spokesperson for Whole Foods said reviewing video footage was not the only way the company could identify workers who may have had close contact with those diagnosed, but did not clarify other business methods.

But many employees say that is not enough. They feel like they are making decisions in the dark because their superiors refuse to divulge information that could help them, such as in which departments people who tested positive have worked and where in the store they have spent time.

“Many workers we spoke to believe that they are not receiving enough information and that this causes a lot of stress and anxiety. And it’s also a safety hazard, because they don’t know what level of vigilance to have and what precautions to take, ”said Tim Shadix, legal director of the Warehouse Workers Resource Center.

Levandowski said the company refused to provide additional information, such as an individual’s job position or department, due to privacy concerns. She said the company had not heard of any issues with workers receiving text message notifications of new cases.

“Whole Foods Market provides an essential service in our communities and, like all businesses operating in this climate, we continue to balance this responsibility with our responsibility as an employer,” said a spokesperson for Whole Foods in a statement. communicated. “Any notification of a diagnosis in our stores translates into prompt and comprehensive action and communication.”

The question of what duty companies should inform their workers of coronavirus cases is “unknown waters,” said Laura Stock, executive director of UC Berkeley’s occupational health program.

California Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to keep a record of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace. This disc, called “Log 300”, is supposed to be available to workers on request.

Because the coronavirus is a relatively new hazard in the workplace, this law has not been tested in connection with the pandemic, to Stock’s knowledge.

But one signed decree Governor Gavin Newsom earlier this month could support the argument that the coronavirus is an occupational disease that should be recorded in the 300 companies newspaper, Stock said. The order established a presumption in workers’ compensation claims that all essential workers infected with COVID-19 contracted the virus at work.

Levandowski said she was not familiar with the rule and could not say whether the company had recorded cases of the coronavirus in its diary.

In warehouses, the growing demand for online orders since the start of the pandemic is straining workers. A shipment of 27,000 pairs of shoes can arrive at an establishment on any given day; a rainbow of boxes, some stamped with brand names, are stacked in rows on towering orange carts.

More people have returned to work since Amazon ended the policy it implemented at the start of the pandemic, allowing workers to take unlimited unpaid leave without penalty. Whole Foods employees worried about safety risks to see company gradual elimination a $ 2 pay rise linked to the coronavirus at the end of May.

Jumpp has had time to follow up the cases as she has been absent from work since the end of February; she requested additional unpaid leave in March as soon as the company offered it as an option due to the outbreak. Since his departure, one of his colleagues at the establishment has died.

She has no plans to return to work at Amazon. “I don’t feel safe,” she said.

Doan continued to work at Whole Foods until Wednesday; she says she was fired after leaving work without clocking in during a panic attack. (Whole Foods said this account was inconsistent with why the company fired Doan, but did not provide further details.) She was dismissed by her supervisor for a team meeting the next day. last week. There had been another confirmed coronavirus infection in his store, he said.

That night, she added it to the Google docs and the total number of cases increased.

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