But behind the scenes, Amazon has been closely tracking the spread of the virus inside at least one warehouse, according to an internal memo viewed by CNN Business. And its own data may raise new concerns about the rate of infections in its facilities.
The memo, which appears to be updated through May 18, further breaks down the departments, shifts and counties of residence for the 45 workers confirmed to have coronavirus. The granular details highlight just how closely the company is keeping tabs on cases, despite opting not to disclose this information to workers.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our teams. We have redeployed a large number of our data scientists, technologists, and operations employees to focus on Covid-19 and ensure the safety of our workforce, including thousands of individuals on our health and safety teams,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Cheeseman said in a statement to CNN Business. Cheeseman added that “an in-depth analysis of sites is one of many tools that help us evaluate the full picture in our buildings related to Covid-19.”
Amazon, which did not deny the memo’s existence, did not respond to a question about whether it is collecting similar information at its other sites.
“We utilize a variety of data to closely monitor the safety of our buildings and there is strong evidence that our employees are not proliferating the virus at work — what we see generally is that the overall rate of infection and increase or decrease of total cases is highly correlated to the overall community rate of infection,” said Cheeseman in the statement. “Over the months of Covid-19, thousands of employees and partners have worked at our Shakopee site and we believe strongly people are not spreading the virus at work given the robust safety measures we’ve put into place.”
According to the memo, Amazon is “regularly engaged” with the Minnesota Department of Health and applicable county health departments concerning positive cases. But the memo also shows a significant desire from workers for more information. In the first two weeks of May, according to the memo, the Shakopee facility saw “64% of safety comments demanding for transparency in the details regarding Covid infected [Amazon Associates], requesting for shift info, total counts, and the most up to date information.”
“This memo shows [Amazon] knows the details, but they’ve been hiding it from us,” said Hibaq Mohamed, who has worked as an Amazon associate for more than three and a half years at the Shakopee facility and has advocated for greater safety precautions. “They don’t want to tell us — but this virus is deadly.”
William Stolz, an Amazon associate at the Shakopee facility, told CNN Business that “the data coming out really does support everything workers have been saying for the last several months about just how serious the spread is at Amazon.”
Amazon has seen soaring demand during the pandemic as people stay home and look to its products and services as a lifeline for household essentials. But it has also become the subject of increased scrutiny concerning the workplace conditions of its 110 fulfillment centers across North America with 400,000 employees.
Amazon has said it shares with employees when there is a confirmed case where they work, but workers have said that communication has been inconsistent. For example, an Amazon spokesperson previously confirmed to CNN Business that while it once included numbers of confirmed cases when notifying workers, it stopped doing so because it does not think the number is useful.