Health officials in southeastern Wisconsin have warned Amazon that if the company does not fully cooperate with state testing and monitoring efforts, the Kenosha campus located 40 miles south of Milwaukee could close. The announcement came as at least 20 workers tested positive for coronavirus at two facilities.
“Right now, the Kenosha County Health Division is struggling to receive coordinated cooperation from Amazon regarding handling Covid-19 cases,” Jen Freiheit, a health official with Kenosha County, told Kenosha News on Thursday.
While the tech giant identified 20 confirmed cases, an independent review of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel employee communications found that at least 32 workers at Amazon H1 and H5 facilities contracted the virus in the last two months .
The Kenosha campus is where the first tech infection was first confirmed on March 16. Amazon has yet to release the number of positive cases at its facilities nationwide, however. Officials with the Kenosha county health department say Amazon is not fully cooperating with public health workers trying to monitor the spread.
“We’ve been on the road now since we didn’t get any [cooperation], we will look at what other steps we can take for Amazon, as we are not getting the compliance we want, ”Freiheit told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
A Guardian study by a public Facebook group found employees at both facilities provided personal updates to their test results to alert colleagues, and often paid attention to barriers to obtaining health information from Amazon, including updates to safety precautions announced by the company to implement it.
“Amazon is not coming,” one user wrote. “Why don’t they help sort out the cases? [They] neither let health be [department] in buildings. What do they need to hide ”?
Earlier this month workers organized protests and protests after Amazon ended its unlimited free time off policy for workers by the end of April. The CEO, Jeff Bezos, and other executives of the company were on fire for what critics called attempts to smear and silence employees who spoke.
At least five workers say the company fired in retaliation for drawing attention to safety conditions at their former facilities, including two in Manhattan, one on Staten Island, one in Indiana and one in Oregon.
Employees also came to Amazon’s defense, however, belonging to the Facebook team. Under discussions about the tech giant’s collaboration with county health officials, some noted that when the first contact was attempted, the health department contacted the wrong person, and it was, in fact, the Amazon representatives who made the right contact.
“The health department is coming to conduct an investigation and management of Covid-19 tests for all employees,” one worker argued. “No one is hiding anything, it’s just a matter of starting communication.”
Amazon has announced that the test for coronavirus is available to campus staff. In a statement to Kenosha News, Amazon spokeswoman Jen Crowcroft, confirmed that the company invited county health officials to “see the investments” made safely, “along with improved daily- day cleaning, temperature checks, mandatory masks, and social mobility measures “.
“In addition, we started our first pilot of the Covid-19 at a small site, and plan to make it available to employees at [two Kenosha facilities] soon, ”he said.
The Guardian has contacted Amazon for comment.