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Amazon reportedly in talks to test warehouse workers for COVID-19

It apparently wants to do more than offer basic safety measures.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
April 4, 2020
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Amazon might follow up its COVID-19 safety measures with full-fledged testing for the associated virus. Reuters has obtained notes that reportedly reveal discussions with Abbott and Thermo Fisher about the prospect of testing warehouse workers, including at a facility near Amazon's Seattle headquarters. The internet retailer was also exploring testing more than one person at a time, and hoped to team with a medical organization for its testing initiative.

Whether or not Amazon gets its way is another story. While Abbott and Thermo Fisher are willing to work with Amazon, according to the notes, demand from the US government is apparently taking up all their available capacity. Amazon was nonetheless hopeful that other companies would follow in its path if testing went ahead.

Amazon has declined to comment, while Abbott and Thermo Fisher haven't addressed the report so far.

If accurate, the scoop suggests that Amazon is aware of how important it is to keep infected workers out of its warehouses, whether or not recent protests influenced its thinking. Amazon has increasingly become important during the pandemic as a way to shop for food, health supplies and other necessities without leaving home. Even one infection at a warehouse (19 warehouses have had incidents so far) could leave people without vital goods for a while if it prompts a temporary closure.

At the same time, this also hints that Amazon still has a long way to go before it has a complete defense against COVID-19. The outbreak has already been present in the US for weeks, and Amazon is only just implementing face masks and temperature checks. Even if test supplies weren't a factor, the pandemic could be at or past its peak before warehouse staff have assurances that their coworkers are healthy.

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