Amazon finally released data on the number of coronavirus cases among its workforce and it’s staggering: Nearly 20,000 U.S. employees have contracted the virus since March.
The e-commerce giant said in a blog post Thursday that between March 1 and September 19, it counted 19,816 confirmed and presumed cases of covid-19, amounting to 1.44% of its roughly 1.37 million Amazon and Whole Foods Market front-line employees across the U.S. Though it should be noted that this total doesn’t include Amazon’s network of third-party delivery drivers that handles last-mile deliveries, a workforce numbered at 85,000 across the U.S., Canada, Spain, Germany and the UK, according to the company’s previous statements. So that 19,000 tally is almost definitely a conservative estimate.
Lawmakers and labour groups have been asking Amazon for months to disclose stats on the spread of the virus among its employees following several concerning reports about unsafe working conditions. Following pressure from both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the company finally implemented regular temperature checks and began offering workers basic PPE recommended by federal guidelines like face masks. In March, Amazon came under fire for reopening its Queens facility within a day after a worker there tested positive for covid-19. Hundreds of workers at Amazon and Whole Foods later coordinated “sick out” demonstrations to push for safer working conditions and protest the company’s firing of two employees who organised similar strikes.
In at least one instance, Amazon refused to tell local officials how many of its employees contracted the virus at one of its distribution centres. Amazon workers eventually banded together to attempt to track the spread of the virus themselves. According to their informal tally, nine employees have died from covid-19 so far. While the company didn’t provide updated figures in Thursday’s announcement, there have been eight confirmed Amazon worker deaths related to covid-19 this year.
Amazon previously avoided disclosing data on covid-19 cases by arguing that it would be misleading without other companies releasing similar figures (and it’s true — other leading retailers like Walmart and Target have stayed tight-lipped on the subject). Amazon repeated that argument Thursday, stating that “[w]ide availability of data would allow us to benchmark our progress and share best practices across businesses and industries.”
Amazon added that the rate of infection among its workforce was 42% lower than expected compared to the national average. If Amazon’s infection rate matched the “general population rate” of cases in the U.S., the company said it would have seen almost 34,000 cases.
In addition to these stats, Amazon also reiterated that its conducting thousands of covid-19 tests per day. By November, it expects to grow to 50,000 tests a day across its 650 facilities “as part of our effort to keep our front-line employees safe.”