Amazon has reported its first known coronavirus death among employees.
An operations manager at Amazon’s Hawthorne, California, location died from COVID-19 on March 31. The death came after weeks of increasing demands from employees for better protection and safer working environments.
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It is not clear where the deceased operations manager contracted the virus. He left for a planned Mexico trip last month and had not yet returned to his fulfillment center. He last worked there on March 6. He returned from Mexico on March 20. By March 26, he had developed flu-like symptoms and by March 31, he had died.
Employees at Amazon have been calling for more paid time off, better protection while on the job, and stricter enforcement of social distancing guidelines from their employer. The company has catered to employee demands for masks and temperature checks as well as raising its minimum wage to $17 an hour. Some employees say these measures aren’t enough.
Across the country, employees at more than 74 Amazon warehouses have been infected with the coronavirus. These concerns have begun boiling over in recent weeks, as employees have staged walk-outs across the country to demand that any location with confirmed COVID-19 cases be closed and cleaned before re-opening. One employee was even fired for organizing a small strike in New York City. The company denies that the employee in question was fired over the strike. Instead, it claims that violating a stay-at-home order led to his dismissal.
It is unclear if the death of an employee will spur Amazon to further assess employee demands. In response to his death, Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish put out a statement.
“We are saddened by the passing of a member of our management team in Hawthorne, California,” she said. “His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues.”
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