From Seattle to New York to London, companies of all sizes have spent the last week preparing for the coronavirus outbreak that started in China to disrupt workplace routines. They have put employees through work-from-home drills, built up inventory to weather a possible shutdown and dusted off emergency-response plans.
Now the emergency seems to be beginning.
At Amazon’s sprawling headquarters in Seattle, a worker in one of the company’s many office buildings in the South Lake Union neighborhood has tested positive for the virus. In a message to employees on Wednesday night, Amazon said it was recommending that all employees in the Seattle region work from home this month if their jobs can be done remotely.
“We are supporting the affected employee, who remains in quarantine,” said Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman.
At the same time, Facebook said on Wednesday that a contractor working in the company’s Seattle offices had tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, making it the second major tech company in the city to be affected by the outbreak.
The tech industry is vital to the economy of Washington State, where a cluster of infections has taken root and 10 people have died, leading companies there to take extra precautions to halt the spread of the virus.
“We’ve notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials to prioritize everyone’s health and safety,” said Andy Stone, a company spokesman.
The Seattle area is Facebook’s largest engineering outpost outside its Bay Area headquarters. It had 5,000 employees in the region as of last September, when it announced plans to expand even further.
Sick workers have also been reported overseas. On Thursday, HSBC, one of the world’s largest financial firms, said that an employee at its global headquarters in London had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The employee is under medical supervision and has self-isolated. The office, where nearly 10,000 people work, remains open.
“We are deep-cleaning the floor where our colleague worked and shared areas of the building,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Colleagues on that floor, and others who came into contact with him, have been advised to work at home.”
Other companies are escalating their efforts to protect employees. Twitter, Ford Motor and numerous others have banned all nonessential travel. The largest American banks, including Citigroup and JPMorgan, have said senior managers must approve any international business trips. And at CNN, which is based in Atlanta and has employees all over the world, the C.E.O. has begun personally vetting all intercontinental travel.
Michael Grynbaum in New York and Geneva Abdul and Iliana Magra in London contributed to this report.