Amazon a “threat to public health” as over 19,000 workers contract COVID-19

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Amazon says that nearly 20,000 frontline workers in the US have contracted COVID-19, the equivalent of 1.44 per cent of its total workforce.

Amazon disclosed the figures, which cover both Amazon and Whole Foods workers, in a blog post this morning following months of pressure from labour rights activists demanding it made the number of infected workers public.

Despite tens of thousands of employees having contracted the virus, Amazon says that its own analysis suggested the infection rate was 42 per cent lower than expected based on infection rates across the US.

According to Amazon, 33,952 of its total 1.37 million workers would have contracted the virus if infection rates matched the US average, instead of its 19,816 it recorded between March 1 and September 19.

It also called on other employers to release similar data, stating the “information would be more powerful if there were similar data from other major employers to compare it to.”

READ MORE: 14,000 “serious injuries” reported at Amazon fulfilment centres last year marking 33% rise

The retail giant’s transparency has not been enough to deter scathing criticism from activist including Athena, a coalition of more than 50 US workers rights organisations.

“Amazon allowed COVID-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon – as well as their family members, neighbours and friends,” Athena’s director Dania Rejendra said.

“Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.”

By November, Amazon said it plans to roll out 50,000 tests per day across 650 sites while investing “hundreds of millions of dollars” in its own testing programme.

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