By Jeffrey Dastin
(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> on Thursday said it was closing a small New York warehouse temporarily after one of its associates tested positive for the coronavirus, a move that highlights the operational risk it faces as the disease spreads.
The company said it has sent associates home from the delivery station with full pay as it sanitizes the facility, its first in the United States known to have a case of the virus.
“We are supporting the individual who is now in quarantine,” Amazon said in a statement. “We continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates and we’re following all guidelines from local officials about the operations of our buildings.”
The news is an indication that Amazon may close additional warehouses should more cases of the virus arise among staff. That would pose a significant hurdle to the world’s largest online retailer, already grappling with out-of-stock goods and slower-than-usual delivery.
Seattle-based Amazon said it has increased cleaning of door handles, stair rails and other surfaces at its facilities. It has staggered shift times, spread out break room tables and asked drivers to keep their distance from customers when delivering orders.
That has not assuaged all workers’ fear of contagion. On Wednesday, more than 200 staged a strike at an Amazon warehouse and shipping center in Saran, south of Paris, calling for the facility’s closure.
The coronavirus has led to at least 8,900 deaths globally, and Amazon employees elsewhere have contracted it. News of its spread to the U.S. Amazon facility was earlier reported by The Atlantic.
The New York delivery station, in the borough of Queens, is dubbed DBK1. It is less than a tenth the size of Amazon’s big fulfillment centers, and its role is to sort orders for last-mile delivery, according to logistics consultancy MWPVL International Inc.
(For an interactive graphic on tracking global spread of coronavirus, click https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Rebekah Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)