Amazon Temporarily Shuts Down Warehouse in Queens After Employee Tests Positive for Coronavirus

An Amazon warehouse worker has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The case — at a fulfillment center in Queens, New York — is the first confirmed in an hourly U.S. employee of the company after two Seattle-based office workers were previously reported to have the virus. Amazon confirmed the Queens employee’s positive test to multiple outlets, including The Atlantic and CNBC.

“We are supporting the individual who is now in quarantine,” Amazon spokesperson Rena Lunak told The Atlantic. “In addition to our enhanced daily deep cleaning, we’ve temporarily closed the Queens delivery station for additional sanitation and have sent associates home with full pay.”

According to The Atlantic, employees at the Queens warehouse (known as DBK1) received the following text message on Wednesday night: “We’re writing to let you know that a positive case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was found at our facility today.”

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement, “Since the early days of this situation, we have worked closely with local authorities to proactively respond, ensuring we continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates and we’re following all guidelines from local officials about the operations of our buildings.”

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NPR reports that aside from the Queens case, five employees in Amazon warehouses have tested positive for COVID-19 in Italy and Spain.

“All Amazon employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine will receive up to two weeks of pay,” a blog post from the company, written by Senior Vice President of Human Resources Beth Galetti, read on March 11. “This additional pay while away from work is to ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost income. This is in addition to unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees through the end of March.”

In a Monday blog post, Amazon’s Senior Vice President of Operations, Dave Clark, wrote that in an attempt to help customers who rely on the service, the company is “opening 100,000 new full and part-time positions across the U.S. in our fulfillment centers and delivery network to meet the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon’s service during this stressful time, particularly those most vulnerable to being out in public.”

“In the U.S., we will be adding an additional $2 USD per hour worked through April from our current rate of $15/hour or more, depending on the region, C$2 in Canada, £2 per hour in the UK, and approximately €2 per hour in many EU countries,” Clark added. “This commitment to increased pay through the end of April represents an investment of over $350 million in increased compensation for hourly employees across the U.S., Europe, and Canada.”

The first cases of a mysterious respiratory illness — what is now known as COVID-19, a form of coronavirus — began in Wuhan, China, in late December. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic.

The first U.S. case was found in Everett, Washington, just outside of Seattle, in a man who had recently returned from Wuhan. The number of cases grew slowly from there and the virus began to spread more rapidly in communities across the United States.

As of Thursday morning, there have been 8,313 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 147 deaths, according to a New York Times database. With West Virginia reporting their first case on Tuesday evening, the virus has now spread to all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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