Amazon tracks coronavirus data closely, internal memo shows

Amazon memo coronavirus data
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An internal memo from e-commerce giant Amazon has revealed that the company is actually tracking data on the number of coronavirus cases inside its warehouses.

The revelation from the internal memo demonstrates that Amazon has been closely examining coronavirus data at its warehouses despite previously claiming that the data itself “isn’t particularly useful”.

This statement by the firm has caused frustration among workers and critics who are seeking a clearer picture of infections within the facilities, which have become critical hubs for home supplies.

Previously, Amazon senior vice-president (SVP) of worldwide operations Dave Clark claimed that coronavirus cases were “popping up at roughly a rate generally just under what the actual community infection rates are.”

However, the internal memo showed that the infection rate at an Amazon warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, is significantly higher than its surrounding communities.

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Details of the memo

The memo indicated that the Shakopee facility, known as MSP1, has an infection rate of 1.7%, which is notably higher than the five local counties surrounding the facility.

During the same period, Scott County, where Shakopee is located, had an infection rate of 0.1%, per the memo while Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is, had a rate of 0.4%.

Updated through May 18, the memo had a breakdown of departments, shifts and counties of residence for the 45 confirmed coronavirus cases. Details included in the memo indicates how much Amazon is paying attention on cases despite not disclosing information.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Cheeseman said: “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.”

She 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.”

While Amazon did not deny the existence of the memo, it did not confirm whether it is collecting similar data from other sites.

Cheeseman explained: “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.”

“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,” she claimed.

Reaction from Amazon employees

The revelation of the internal memo has been perceived by some Amazon workers as a validation of safety concerns voiced by employees in recent months.

Several workers have been dismissed at various Amazon facilities in the US after being vocal about the company’s alleged inadequate response to coronavirus.

Hibaq Mohamed, who has worked as an Amazon associate for more than three and a half years at the Shakopee facility, argued: “This memo shows [Amazon] knows the details, but they’ve been hiding it from us. They don’t want to tell us — but this virus is deadly.”

William Stolz, an Amazon associate at the Shakopee facility, said 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.”

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