Amazon warehouse in Minnesota had more than 80 COVID-19 cases

An Amazon warehouse in Minnesota was the site of a spike in COVID-19 cases, according to newly released data from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The warehouse in Shakopee, Minn., had 88 positive cases in about 70 days. It employs about 1,000 people, meaning about 1 in 12 employees contracted the virus.

The cases were reported from April 4 to June 14, with most occurring between late April and mid-May.

The Minnesota health department said the outbreak at the Shakopee warehouse is one of the biggest it has seen but not the worst. A meatpacking plant in Cold Spring, Minn., saw 194 cases in May.

Amazon’s situation has improved since implementing new state recommendations and were working to mitigate spread, according to state health officials.

A total of 187 coronavirus cases have been confirmed among Amazon workers throughout Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. However, it’s unclear whether the employees contracted the illness at work.

The company said it does not believe infections are being spread at the workplace.

“We utilize a variety of data to closely monitor the safety of our buildings and there is strong evidence that our employees are not proliferating the virus at work,” Amazon spokesman Timothy Carter said. “What we see generally is that the overall rate of infection and increase or decrease of total cases is highly correlated to the overall community rate of infection. Over the months of COVID-19, thousands of employees and partners have worked at our Shakopee site and we believe strongly people are not spreading the virus at work given the robust safety measures we’ve put into place.”

Amazon has repeatedly declined to provide a full count of how many workers have tested positive or died from COVID-19.

According to an NBC News count, at least 10 Amazon warehouse workers have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The deaths occurred among workers at warehouses in New York, Illinois, California, Indiana and Ohio.

Amazon isn’t alone in experiencing an increase in cases. Factories and warehouses across the country have frequently seen growing numbers, including numerous meatpacking plants, a beauty product manufacturer and a plant that makes wind turbine blades.

Amazon has said it conducts contact tracing every time there’s a positive test and utilizes video surveillance to track employees’ locations and proximity to one another.

Amazon has been under pressure from current and former employees to provide safer conditions at its warehouses.

One Minnesota worker, Jamal Omer, expressed his concerns about warehouse conditions to his manager before he tested positive last month.

“Every single day I was worried,” Omer said. “I’ve complained many times.”

His wife, two of his children and his 75-year-old mother-in-law also tested positive.

Amazon has said it began deep cleaning high-touch areas, such as elevator buttons, door handles and handrails, in late February and early March. Masks were made available and required of all workers starting April 15 and a couple weeks later started a process of disinfectant spraying called “fogging” in its warehouses, the company said.

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