JEFFERSONVILLE — An employee at the Amazon fulfillment center in Jeffersonville has died from the coronavirus, the second death related to COVID-19 at Amazon locations in Indiana.
The death of a worker from the virus at an Indianapolis facility also has been confirmed. The unidentified Jeffersonville employee is at least the seventh Amazon employee in the company to die from the virus since the outbreak started.
“We are saddened by the loss of an associate who had worked at our site in Jeffersonville, Indiana,” said Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty. “His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues.”
Amazon said it contacted the family after the man died Wednesday.
The employee last worked at the facility April 1. His diagnosis was confirmed April 25. It wasn’t until this past Monday that those at the site were made aware of the positive results.
The company said it is now updating all Jeffersonville employees on the situation, as well as extending counseling support to team members who may be grieving.
The first confirmed case at the Jeffersonville facility was announced April 3. In the weeks prior, employees had raised concerns over the working environment, as three positive diagnoses had just led to a shutdown of the nearby Shepherdsville facility.
Photos received by the News and Tribune after the announcement of the first case showed workers in the Jeffersonville facility not following social distancing guidelines. Empty containers of hand sanitizer also were shown in the pictures provided by a worker.
One employee, Jana Jumpp, has taken an unpaid leave of absence from the company amid the outbreak. For the past several weeks, Jumpp has been vocal about what she sees as a lack of protections provided by Amazon.
Jumpp said that news of the death at Jeffersonville’s facility was “devastating.”
“I’m devastated for the family, the co-workers and the managers,” she said. “It’s hard for me to talk about because it’s what we’ve been fighting. We have to push, push, push, because Amazon isn’t putting anything out.”
After the first case, Amazon announced it would be implementing changes to its operations, including screening employee temperatures upon entrance. Multiple cases have since been discovered.
Jumpp has been working with fellow employees and watchdogs from around the country. She said she believes there have been about 14 cases in Jeffersonville. She also said the group is attempting to confirm three additional deaths of employee at facilities elsewhere in the country.
“Once they hit they five, they stopped telling us the number,” she said. “They told us up until five cases. After that, they just say we have ‘additional cases.’ We don’t know how many they are.”
Information provided by the company said that $800 million is being spent during the first half of 2020 to procure personal protective equipment, sanitizers, thermometers, thermal cameras, testing equipment and additional janitorial teams.
To try to ensure the health of employees, Lighty said the company expects to invest about $4 billion between April and June on “COVID-related initiatives to get products to customers and keep employees safe.”
The statement went on to say rates for the number of cases at Amazon facilities are no higher than those of the communities in which the facilities are located, including Jeffersonville.
“We are going to great lengths to keep the buildings extremely clean and help employees practice important precautions such as social distancing and other measures,” Lighty said. “Our rates of infection are at or below the rates of the communities where we operate. We see that in our quarantine rates as well.
“Quarantine rates are a critical part to understanding what’s happening in the workplace – it shows that our hard work around social distancing is paying off. Unlike others who hide beyond HIPAA, we alert every person at the site anytime there is a confirmed diagnosis. This alert to employees is a direct text message noting when the person with the confirmed diagnosis was last in the building.”