Tampa Amazon employees tested positive for COVID-19, but workers don’t know how many

As frustrations among essential workers bubble, some organizers from Amazon, Whole Foods, and Target call for widespread strike.
Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in the Staten Island borough of New York protest conditions in the company's warehouse in March. [Bebeto Matthews | Associated Press]
Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in the Staten Island borough of New York protest conditions in the company's warehouse in March. [Bebeto Matthews | Associated Press] [ BEBETO MATTHEWS | AP ]
Published May 1, 2020

TAMPA — Amazon employees at a warehouse on Adamo Drive know coworkers have tested positive for COVID-19, but they don’t know how many. Or when. Or what shift the infected employees worked.

The company isn’t disclosing that information.

On April 25, warehouse workers at the location on Adamo Drive received a text message, which was shared with the Tampa Bay Times. It reads: “We have additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 at DTP1," a reference to the Adamo Drive location.

Yet, the message said the last infected worker left the building on April 3 — three weeks before employees were notified their workplace had more cases. Employees had been sent a prior notice in early April about positive cases from March.

DTP1 is company shorthand for a Tampa warehouse and package pick-up site that largely serves Amazon Prime customers, who can get same-day delivery in one to two hours. Amazon rents the space alongside a few other tenants at the industrial complex spanning 8800-8824 Adamo Drive.

The Times asked Amazon about the delay in notification and the number of employees infected, but received a statement that did not directly answer any of its questions.

“We’re continuing to monitor the situation in our facilities and corporate offices, and we are taking proactive measures to protect employees and associates who have been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed or becomes ill,” spokesman Timothy Carter said. “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 guided by health officials.”

Local health officials don’t release whether those who have tested positive work at retail warehouses or stores, citing privacy concerns. It makes it impossible to know how may Florida retail workers have been infected. Workers from local Publix stores have also sent the Times internal memos about positive cases. Publix has confirmed nine local cases. Retailers are not required to inform the public of any COVID-19 outbreaks.

Outside of Florida, some county and state health departments do release that information, even listing the shifts employees worked.

On Friday, some retail employee organizations across the country called for workers from Amazon, Whole Foods and Target to do a mass “sick out" by calling off from work. They also encouraged shoppers to boycott the stores. Workers have been demanding better pay and safety protections while working through the pandemic.

Workers in Chicago have staged walkouts and demonstrations and have been vocal on social media under the name “Amazonians United.” They hosted their own safety strikes at the end of March demanding the mega corporation implement more protections from coronavirus. On April 26, the Chicago group posted internal messages sent to workers regarding positive COVID-19 cases to its Facebook page. The post said workers were aware of at least four cases.

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“Just like we said would happen during our safety strikes, the virus is spreading because management does not care,” the group wrote in the Facebook post. “They don’t even say what shift our coworkers with positive cases worked on, and we know they’re not proactive about anything concerning our health and safety.”

The company messages posted by the Chicago group mirror the language used in messages sent to Tampa workers. The messages also remind workers to maintain safe social distances and wear face masks, and says Amazon is continuing to do frequent cleanings and employee temperature checks.

“Your safety and health is our top priority,” Amazon wrote to Tampa workers.

The message said anyone who was in close contact with those who tested positive would be notified. The company says those who tested positive and those who worked closely with them are given two weeks of paid time off.

Amazon has given employees $2 hourly raises as it continues to see a surge in order demands during the pandemic. In total, the company has hired more than 100,000 people since the start of March and plans to hire 75,000 more.

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