Amazon begins screening some warehouse employees for coronavirus symptoms as they show up for work

Key Points
  • Amazon notified warehouse workers in at least two states, Michigan and Virginia, that they'd be screened for coronavirus symptoms when they show up to work, according to documents obtained by CNBC.
  • If workers say they're experiencing symptoms of the virus, they'll be asked to return home, according to one notice from Amazon.
  • Amazon has moved forward with its plans to regularly test warehouse workers, with nearly a dozen facilities participating in the testing pilot so far. 

Amazon will begin screening some warehouse employees for Covid-19 symptoms as they report to work, marking the latest effort to heighten coronavirus safety measures at its facilities.

The company on Wednesday notified warehouse workers in at least two states, Michigan and Virginia, that they'd be subject to a new symptom screening process upon arrival at their facility, according to documents obtained by CNBC. 

"Beginning this week we're introducing a symptom screen at our entrances in accordance with guidance from local authorities," the notice sent to workers states. "Moving forward, when you arrive for your shift you will read signs listing potential Covid-19 symptoms as you enter the building."

Amazon didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.

If workers don't report any Covid-19 symptoms, they'll scan their badge, complete a temperature check and enter the building as normal, the notice said.

If workers say they're experiencing symptoms of the virus, they 'll be asked to "return home out of caution and receive a Covid-19 test," according to one notice sent to Michigan workers. It's unclear if that measure will be taken at all facilities implementing the new screening measures. 

Amazon has adopted a number of safety measures to make it safer for the hundreds of thousands of warehouse employees who've continued to report to work during the pandemic. The company employs 125,000 full-time workers at its North American facilities and typically has at least 100 employees per shift at fulfillment centers. 

It started taking workers' temperatures and requiring face masks at warehouses in April. The company is also carrying out contact tracing when it identifies positive cases, by reviewing camera footage to identify anyone who came into contact with individuals who've tested positive, along with interviewing infected individuals. 

Despite these measures, warehouse workers have repeatedly criticized Amazon's response to the pandemic, arguing it hasn't done enough to keep them safe. 

Ramping up testing

Amazon has also ramped up its plans to test warehouse workers on the frontlines. In April, CEO Jeff Bezos said the company would soon begin "regular testing of all Amazonians, including those showing no symptoms."

Since then, Amazon has rolled out coronavirus testing sites at nearly a dozen warehouses, according to notices sent out to workers. CNBC previously reported that the company's goal is to test the bulk of its warehouse workers every two weeks. 

Workers test themselves with a nasal swab using a video for guidance. A medical professional is nearby to help. At some facilities, workers are paid if they elect to participate in the testing pilot, according to notices sent to workers in Ohio and Arizona. Employees typically receive their test results within three to five days, Amazon told workers. 

In addition to collecting nasal swabs, Amazon is planning to develop standalone diagnostic labs in several sites, beginning in Sunnyvale, California and in Hebron, Kentucky. Amazon is hiring a number of research scientists in diagnostics to staff up the labs, which would analyze some of the test samples to see if they're positive or negative, among other efforts.

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