Amazon is encouraging California employees to conduct weekly Covid assessments

Peter Endig | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon is encouraging frontline workers in California to run weekly Covid-19 tests as the state rolls out new emergency response measures for the coronavirus.

“In accordance with Cal / OSHA’s new emergency regulations for Covid-19, we recommend that all Amazon employees get tested for Covid-19 at least once a week from the week of December 14,” said a note on one internal company website of warehouse workers and drivers.

A separate notice to Whole Foods employees reads: “WFM [Whole Foods Market] offers team members once a week (every seven days) Covid-19 tests, and we encourage all team members to participate. ”

Earlier this month, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health introduced new regulations on workplace safety for coronavirus. The emergency regulations require employers to conduct Covid tests if the workplace has multiple infections or outbreaks. It also strengthens the rules for case tracking, reporting, and communicating proceedings with staff.

The tests are carried out in third-party emergency clinics operated by Concentra, a national healthcare company partially owned by Select Medical Holdings. Concentra notifies employees of their test results.

In the notice to Amazon employees, they were told that they should be tested outside of their scheduled working hours and that they would receive up to 1.5 hours in compensation as reimbursement for “time and travel” costs. The separate notice to Whole Foods staff said that the cost of the tests will be covered.

If available, some warehouse workers can be tested as part of Amazon’s own testing program, which was introduced over the summer. As part of this program, employees test themselves on site with nasal swabs, using a video for instructions and being supervised by a professional. The company’s stated goal was to test the majority of warehouse workers every two weeks.

However, Amazon has been slower to offer testing to the legions of Whole Foods employees who work in nearly 500 locations across the U.S. Whole Worker, an employee advocacy group, has urged the company to provide free coronavirus testing to all team members, including part-time and seasonal.

It’s unclear whether Amazon or Whole Foods track how many employees sign up for tests at outside clinics or whether workers’ results are shared with their employer.

The attempt to offer testing to California workers comes as California Attorney General Xavier Becerra investigates coronavirus security measures at Amazon in warehouses across the state. On Monday, Becerra asked a Sacramento County Supreme Court judge to order the company to comply with its subpoenas, including for more information on the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in California facilities. He claimed Amazon had not yet provided sufficient information, which Amazon denied.

Amazon announced in October that nearly 20,000 of its approximately 1.37 million Amazon and Whole Foods employees contracted Covid-19 between March 1 and September 19. The company said the infection rate among employees compared to the general population was 42% lower than expected rate in the US

An Amazon spokesman did not immediately make a comment. Whole Foods did not respond to requests for comment.

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