An 8th Amazon employee has died of COVID-19. The news comes as Amazon is under scrutiny for failing to be more transparent about the wider number of infections among its warehouse workers.
A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed the reports of the death, stating, “We are saddened by the loss of an associate who had worked at our site in Randall, Ohio. “Her family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting her fellow colleagues.”
According to the Amazon, the worker in North Randall, a village outside of Cleveland, was sent home from work on April 30. She received a positive test a little over a week later, on May 8. The company says it notified fellow employees of the death and has provided counseling to colleagues.
The overall number of Amazon workers who have tested positive for the virus are not known. Amazon stands by its decision not to disclose such information. “We don’t think that number is super valuable,” it has said previously.
The lack of transparency is one of a number of sources of criticism surrounding Amazon’s COVID-19 response.
While Amazon has repeatedly maintained that it has done all it can to protect the employees in its fulfillment centers, potential exposure to the coronavirus among warehouse workers is difficult to avoid, even with the proper PPE. Earlier this month, a letter from 13 state attorneys general demanded that Amazon disclose the number of workers who have been impacted by the virus.
“We have requested but not received information on how many of the Companies’ workers have been infected with COVID-19, and how many have died from it,” the letter reads. “Please provide a state-by-state breakdown for each Company with this information.”
Earlier this week, The New York Times noted one particularly hard-hit warehouse in northeastern Pennsylvania, where more than 100 workers have apparently tested positive for the coronavirus. The exact figure is unknown, as Amazon will not disclose it. Yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that at least 30 workers at the nearby Kenosha warehouse have tested positive for the coronavirus.
As more housebound Americans rely on Amazon for deliveries, workers have largely fallen under the “essential services” guidelines issued by many states. In mid-May, the company extended its $2 an hour “hazard pay bonuses” through the end of the month. Amazon confirmed that it will return to standard salaries, come June, stating:
“To thank employees and help meet increased demand, we’ve paid our team and partners nearly $800 million extra since COVID-19 started while continuing to offer full benefits from day one of employment. With demand stabilized, next month we’ll return to our industry-leading starting wage of $15 an hour.”
Amazon has been subject to additional scrutiny over the firing of several employees that have raised public concerns over its treatment of workers during the pandemic. While the company has repeatedly denied the firings were retaliation, the reports were enough to warrant another letter, this time from a number of high-profile senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.