Amazon has told employees in two major markets—New York and New Jersey—to stay home until at least the end of the month amid novel coronavirus fears, the company confirmed to Gizmodo on Monday.
“We continue to work closely with public and private medical experts to ensure we are taking the right precautions as the situation continues to evolve,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. “This includes recommending that employees who are able to work from home in Seattle/Bellevue, the Bay Area, New York, New Jersey and the Lombardy region/Asti province of Italy do so through the end of March.”
Amazon did not comment on how many employees this is likely to impact, or which divisions of its sprawling business it considers able to work remotely.
The outbreak of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, first surged in the U.S. in Washington state, home to Amazon’s headquarters, which has 136 confirmed positive cases and 18 deaths related to the illness. In New York, the number of confirmed cases rose on Monday to 142, including 19 in New York City. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a tweet that the number of “presumed positive” cases in his state is now 11. More than 600 people are confirmed to have contracted the illness across the U.S.
Last week, an employee in Amazon’s Seattle headquarters tested positive for the virus, leading to the first wave of office closures. Like other companies, it has been advising workers to limit foreign and domestic travel, and as Gizmodo learned late last month, took the additional precaution of replacing some in-person interviews with virtual ones.
This weekend, Amazon also sent notice widely to its warehouses that policies around unpaid time off (UPT) and attendance points would be relaxed, though the specifics are not entirely clear. UPT is a bank of time, measured in whole hours, that workers deduct without manager approval—and which often results in dismissal once it reaches zero; attendance points are a related metric for measuring tardiness, usually ascribed to part-time warehouse workers. Both are part of a wage-and-hour policy endemic to Amazon and pretty much only Amazon.
No similar considerations seem to be in place for Amazon’s contractor workforce—like its fleet of Flex drivers—though the response to coronavirus by gig work platforms has become a point of contention, thanks in part to a salvo of letters from Senator Mark Warner calling for something akin to health insurance or sick leave. While Flex drivers likely come into less direct contact than some other independent couriers, New York has already confirmed one Uber driver has tested positive for COVID-19.