Amazon.com Inc. has told employees at a warehouse in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, that it will keep their facility shut indefinitely after three employees there tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Workers at the facility, south of Louisville, were told Monday evening that the warehouse, called SDF9, would be closed for 48 hours for “enhanced, daily deep cleaning” to protect employees.
Just a few hours before it was scheduled to reopen Wednesday evening, employees learned from an automated call that the facility would remain idle until further notice, according to three employees who received the call. Workers will receive their regularly scheduled pay, said the employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from their employer. One of the workers said Amazon told them it would inform employees when the company had determined an reopening date.
An Amazon spokeswoman didn’t immediately comment on plans for the facility.
As businesses across the U.S. shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Amazon’s warehouses have taken a place alongside grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential facilities keeping their doors open during the pandemic. These companies are asking employees to shoulder the risk of illness or death to provide vital services to the public. As part of that effort, Amazon last week cut off shipments of non-essential inventory to its warehouses to prioritize in-demand items.
But unlike most of Amazon’s hundreds of U.S. warehouses, which can process a variety of items, SDF9 primarily handles returns of shoes and clothing, employees say. Workers there interviewed by Bloomberg this week said they were afraid to return to work simply to process returns.
Amazon says it has been undertaking deep cleanings of warehouses, and last week, the company started eliminating warehouse shift meetings, staggering start times and rearranging warehouse break rooms to discourage congregating.
Those steps haven’t prevented coronavirus cases from popping up in the company’s 800,000-strong workforce, in European countries hard-hit by the disease and, this week, in the U.S. Since Amazon temporarily closed a Queens, New York, delivery station following the disclosure an employee had been diagnosed with Covid-19 last week, Amazon warehouse workers in at least seven other states – California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan and Oklahoma and Texas – have been informed of cases of the respiratory disease in their ranks, according to media reports and employees in some of those facilities, who asked to remain anonymous. Shepherdsville is the first known instance of Amazon closing a facility for longer than a shift in response to a coronavirus case.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.