CDC updates COVID-19 guidance for critical businesses (like Amazon)

Critical workers should be sent home immediately if they're sick, the CDC says, while special precautions should be taken after potential exposure.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday issued updated guidance for the steps critical businesses should take when one of their workers is potentially exposed to COVID-19. The guidance applies to workers supporting e-commerce operations, like Amazon warehouse workers. The e-commerce giant has come under fire from both warehouse workers and lawmakers concerned that it hasn't acted quickly enough to protect workers. 

As defined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), "critical infrastructure workers" currently includes "workers supporting ecommerce through distribution, warehouse, call center facilities, and other essential operational support functions."

According to the new guidance, if an employee becomes sick during the day, they should be sent home immediately. Surfaces in their workspace should be cleaned and disinfected. Employers should keep track of who the sick employee came into contact with, while they were symptomatic and two days prior to that. Anyone who was within six feet of that individual during that period should be considered exposed.   

The CDC says that critical infrastructure workers may continue working after potential exposure to the virus, as long as they're asymptomatic and additional precautions are taken. Those include:

  • Pre-Screening: Employers should measure the employee's temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work -- ideally, before they enter the facility. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
  • Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn't have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer's occupational health program.
  • Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employees' supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages. 
  • Social Distancing: The employee should maintain six feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
  • Disinfecting and Cleaning work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.

Amazon is providing daily updates regarding the steps it is taking to respond to the pandemic, such as implementing enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to protect its employees, delivering  personal protective gear like masks to employees and implementing temperature checks across its operations.

Some of these measures were only implemented after workers at Amazon fulfillment centers began speaking out in protest over the company's lack of precautionary measures -- and after workers began getting sick. For instance, Amazon began began temperature checks at select sites around the US on March 29. But by March 25, at least 10 Amazon warehouse employees across the US had contracted the virus, according to reports. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported the virus had spread to more than 50 Amazon facilities across the US.

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