Saturday, January 16, 2021

Amazon Closes New Jersey Warehouse After Rise In COVID-19 Cases

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Amazon has temporarily closed a New Jersey warehouse after a spike in asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, a rare move that comes as the company prepares for a final push in what is expected to be a record-breaking shopping season.

The world’s largest online retailer told Robbinsville Township warehouse workers that the facility will be closed until Dec. 26, a spokesperson confirmed.

Amazon has typically chosen to keep its warehouses and other facilities functional amid outbreaks, betting that more frequent cleanings and social distancing will limit the risk of the virus spreading in any given building. A rare exception occurred at the start of the pandemic in March, when an item of clothing returns to the warehousewas slowed downby order of the Governor of Kentucky Andy Beshear afteran epidemic there.

The New Jersey facility, PNE5, is a sorting center that takes finished packages from other Amazon warehouses and routes them to individual post offices and other facilities for so-called last mile delivery. The center serves the Philadelphia and Trenton, New Jersey areas, according to MWPVL International, a logistics consulting firm that tracks Amazon’s network.

The temporary loss of one of these buildings is unlikely to weigh heavily on Amazon’s delivery network, which has high built-in redundancy.

The Seattle giant has spent months setting up a testing program for its hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers, leveraging both third-party labs and its own facilities.

“Through our internal Covid-19 testing program, we have detected an increase in the number of asymptomatic positive cases at our PNE5 facility in northern New Jersey and have proactively closed the site until December 26 as a precaution,” Leah Seay, an Amazon spokesperson, said in an email. “This is exactly why we designed the program: to identify asymptomatic cases and make sure we can take swift action to prevent the spread.”

Workers at the facility would be paid for scheduled shifts they miss, she said.

The closure was reported on Sundayby CNBC.

Amazon said in October that some20,000 workershad caught COVID-19 during the first six months of the pandemic, a rare revelation for a large employer. The company said the infection rate among its employees was lower than common rates in the general population. But some infectious disease experts said the disclosurelacked key datanecessary to assess this claim.

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