Coronavirus: Amazon confirms nearly 20,000 US employees sickened by COVID-19 since March 1

Coronavirus: Amazon confirms nearly 20,000 US employees sickened by COVID-19 since March 1
Sealed boxes move along a conveyor into a truck dock ahead of shipping from an Inc. fulfilment center during the online retailer's Prime Day sales promotion day in Koblenz, Germany, on Monday, July 15, 2019. (Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Amazon confirmed Thursday that at least 19,816 employees contracted COVID-19 since the novel coronavirus pandemic’s start.

The figure, which includes all positive U.S. cases reported between March 1 and Sept. 19 for Amazon and Whole Foods Market employees, represents about 1.44% of the online retail behemoth’s nearly 1.4 million front-line workers during that period, Reuters reported.

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The retailer has drawn stark rebukes over its handling of the pandemic with both workers and unaffiliated critics arguing it failed to keep employees – especially those in warehouses – safe as they hustle to meet surging demand from customers nationwide, The Washington Post reported.

Amazon, in turn, cited Johns Hopkins University’s global COVID-19 tracker to emphasize its in-house infection rate is lower than the national rate, the Post reported.

State-by-state figures compiled by the company support that assertion with only two exception. Minnesota employees reported a 3.17% infection rate, or more than twice the state’s rate of 1.58%, while West Virginia employees reported a rate of 1.31% compared with the state’s rate of 0.94%.

In a blog post, the company estimated 33,952 employees, or roughly 71% more, would have contracted the virus if Amazon’s in-house infection rate mirrored national figures. Reuters reported.

“This information would be more powerful if there were similar data from other major employers to compare it to,” Amazon said in the blog post. “We hope sharing this data and our learnings will encourage others to follow and will prove useful as states make decisions about reopening public facilities and employers consider whether and how to bring people back to work.”

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman told the Post that the numbers do not include delivery drivers, who are typically contract workers.