Amazon informed US warehouse employees on Friday that it is once again requiring them to wear masks to work in response to the spread of the more contagious COVID-19 delta variant (via CNBC and Bloomberg). The company says it offers access to vaccines to over half a million of its employees, but it will require employees to mask up, regardless of their vaccination status.
Amazon confirmed the mask mandate in an email statement to The Verge:
In response to the concerning spread of new COVID-19 variants in the U.S. and guidance from public health authorities and our own medical experts, we are requiring face coverings indoors regardless of vaccination status. We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to follow local government guidance and work closely with leading medical healthcare professionals, gathering their advice and recommendations as we go forward to ensure our buildings are optimized for the safety of our teams.
Non-warehouse employees currently don’t have to deal with Amazon’s policy change. The company recently adjusted its return-to-office plans on August 5th, pushing back its return date to January 2022. Like other companies, Amazon had previously considered implementing a hybrid work schedule, with plans to bring office workers back to offices for at least part of the week starting on September 7th.
Taking the extra precautions for warehouse employees seems like the right idea if it plans to continue having staff work in person. Amazon reported in October 2020 that 19,816 workers of its 1,372,000 frontline employees across Whole Foods and Amazon had COVID-19 “or where presumed positive” from March 1st to September 19th, 2020.