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'I'm worried that I have infected 1000 people in the last three days': Amazon workers reveal all the reasons why they're afraid to go to work
As thousands of businesses across the country close their doors to help slow the spread of the coronavirus across the country, Amazon, deemed an "essential business," is one of a few major multinational corporations that have continued to operate.
While the company's operations have largely carried on business as usual, the fear of catching the coronavirus at Amazon warehouses is now palpable, employees told Business Insider. A quiet cough or small sneeze would usually pass without much notice - but now they boom across the facility, flaring anxieties and prompting some employees to walk out in the middle of a shift.
While some Amazon workers can afford not to go to work, others feel that they are forced to choose between their health and their livelihood.
Business Insider spoke with eight Amazon workers in Pennsylvania, Texas, Kentucky, Arizona, and California who say they're afraid to go to work - and they claim that Amazon is not doing enough to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading within their own facilities and to the larger communities they serve.
Kristen Kish, a spokesperson for Amazon told Business Insider told that the company is monitoring the situation in its facilities and are taking "proactive measures to protect employees and associates who have been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed or becomes ill."
"Like most global companies, we've had employees affected by this, and we're doing all that we can to protect our employees and take the proper precautions as stated in WHO guidelines," Kish told Business Insider.
With hundreds or even thousands of workers packed into a warehouse at a time - rendering social distancing measures "impossible" - and a scarce supply of hand sanitizers and cleaning products, employees called Amazon facilities a "breeding ground" for coronavirus infection.
And, despite having confirmed COVID-19 cases at several warehouses, they claim that management refused to temporarily close down their locations to clean the entire facility despite employee requests.
"It's leaving us to choose our health or our finances," one Amazon worker from Houston who wished to remain anonymous told Business Insider. "Everybody looks scared, but we can't afford not to go to work."
"It's leaving us to choose our health or our families."
At an Amazon location in Houston, Texas, one warehouse employee who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation told Business Insider that there are at least five employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus where she works.
"This disease is killing people on a daily basis," she said. "As people are testing positive for it where I work, they still expect for us to come there."
With two kids at home full-time due to school closures, she said she can't risk bringing home the virus to her children. The single mom has been forced to take off work so she can take care of her kids - but that also means less money to support the family.
"I can't afford to risk my health - my health is more important than a paycheck," she said, noting that she is afraid she will come in contact with the virus while at work.
"But, I'm also afraid that I'm not going to have the money that I need to take care of my bills when it's all over," she said.
After the Houston location confirmed that employees had tested positive for coronavirus, the warehouse associate claimed that the company refused to shut down the facility for deep cleaning and has barely increased their normal cleaning schedules.
Although management claimed to be following CDC mandates, she said that hand sanitizer is scarce and cleaning supplies to disinfect their working areas are often in short supply.
For warehouse associates, she added that social distancing was "impossible."
"There's no way to forcefully make somebody stay six feet from one another, especially with the type of work that we do," she said, pointing to warehouse assembly lines where workers constantly come into close contact with each other.
According to Amazon, that "this is simply not true," Kish said, adding that the company "adjusted practices to ensure social distancing within our buildings, including no stand-up meetings, moving chairs and tables in breakdowns and adjusting shift start and end times."
However, Business Insider previously reported that an Amazon fulfillment center in Indiana appeared to show a lack of social distancing - the facility later confirmed that an employee tested positive for the novel virus.
By failing to take enough precautionary measures to protect their workers, she felt that Amazon was forcing its workers to choose between their health and their livelihood.
"I choose my life, but in their opinion, it's the bottom dollar."
For Amazon employees who are at risk of falling seriously ill if they are infected with the coronavirus, going into work could be a matter of life and death. For an Amazon worker in Lexington, Kentucky, who is immunocompromised, the decision not to go to work she said protects her from contracting the "potentially life-threatening" disease.
"I choose my life but, basically, in their opinion, it's the bottom dollar," the employee who works in vendor returns told Business Insider, adding that there are no provisions for the elderly or those who can't prove their underlying health conditions. "I'm not receiving pay during this time and it's creating a dire situation for me."
Every three months, the Kentucky employee receives a steroid shot to control her psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The shot suppresses her immune system, which makes her susceptible to getting infected and falling extremely ill.