As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, Amazon said it would begin screening employees for elevated temperatures each day, starting at sites in Seattle and New York City, as "an additional preventive measure."
Amazon also is offering higher pay to recruit its own warehouse employees to pick and pack Whole Foods groceries amid rising demand, according to an internal document reviewed by Reuters.
Federal health officials recommended March 11 that all employers in the Seattle area screen anyone entering work sites for symptoms of coronavirus, including daily temperature screenings. Amazon, which has seen a growing number of employees in its huge fulfillment and delivery network test positive for COVID-19 had not been screening workers for symptoms.
In a statement Sunday, Amazon said it intends to expand daily temperature screenings to other sites as quickly as possible.
The company has not provided an official tally of how many employees have tested positive for COVID-19 or at what locations. Reuters reported Saturday at least 17 Amazon locations had employees who had tested positive.
Employees in recent days described heat-sensing or infrared cameras at fulfillment centers, including in Kent, Wash., but said they weren't yet being used. Last week, an Amazon spokesperson said the company had advised workers to "self-screen through on-site resources including posters and signage."
Some Amazon employees have criticized the lack of symptom screenings and the company's decision not to close sites where it has confirmed COVID-19-positive employees for deep cleaning.
Amazon said in a statement: "The health and safety of our employees is our top priority and the vast majority of our employees continue to come to work and deliver for customers. We understand the past few weeks has been a very challenging time and we deeply value our employees as they serve the people in their communities in a way that very few can — delivering critical supplies directly to the doorsteps of people who need them."
The statement reiterated the company is closely following guidance from local health officials and is going to "extreme measures to keep the building extremely clean with enhanced cleaning and sanitation and efforts to enforce social distancing, to name a few."
As far as trying to get warehouse workers to switch to grocery delivery, the move, known as labor sharing, highlights how the e-commerce giant is reallocating some of its vast workforce to handle a spike in online sales of groceries, as millions of American are stuck at home amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Amazon offers online grocery services through Amazon Fresh from its own grocery warehouses, and Amazon Prime Now, which delivers from its Whole Foods stores.
"The Prime Now business has seen a mass increase in volume and is now offering labor share opportunities," Amazon said in a message sent to warehouse workers in Maryland, which was reviewed by Reuters. Workers in other states where Amazon operates grocery services have received similar communications, including California, Nevada and Tennessee.
Employees who are selected to make the switch can make $19 per hour, a $2 raise on top of the pay hike Amazon announced earlier this month.
"As we continue to see a significant increase in demand for grocery orders, we are offering temporary opportunities for associates across our fulfillment network to provide additional support," an Amazon spokesperson said on late Friday, confirming the action.
Includes reporting by the Seattle Times and Reuters.