Amazon plans to hire 100,000 workers to assist with online deliveries in the U.S. and raise their minimum pay to at least $17 an hour through April.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the U.S. needs much more coronavirus testing before the nation can restart the economy amid an ongoing pandemic.
The online retailing giant’s founder made the assessment in his annual letter to shareholders, released Thursday. Amazon is creating its own lab to increase testing for COVID-19 and hopes to test all employees, Bezos says.
“Regular testing on a global scale, across all industries, would both help keep people safe and help get the economy back up and running,” he said. “For this to work, we as a society would need vastly more testing capacity than is currently available. If every person could be tested regularly, it would make a huge difference in how we fight this virus. Those who test positive could be quarantined and cared for, and everyone who tests negative could re-enter the economy with confidence.”
President Donald Trump is expected to issue guidelines Thursday about the opening up of the U.S. economy, which has been shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Trump’s goal to “reopen” the country has run counter to some advice from public health officials and governors.
Amazon hopes to start testing “small numbers of our frontline employees soon,” he said. But Bezos said he was unsure whether Amazon would meet its goal of testing all employees in “the relevant timeframe, but we think it’s worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn.”
The company hired 100,000 additional workers in March and is currently looking to employ another 75,000 to meet demand stoked by stay-at-home initiatives across the nation.
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But the company has faced criticism from some employees for not keeping them safe in the workplace, whether it be Amazon warehouses or Whole Foods Markets, the grocery chain Amazon acquired in June 2017.
Amazon has increased pay for workers during the pandemic and earlier this month began issuing face masks to employees, giving them temperature checks as protective measures.
“Consulting closely with medical experts and health authorities, we’ve made over 150 significant process changes in our operations network and Whole Foods Market stores to help teams stay healthy, and we conduct daily audits of the measures we’ve put into place,” Bezos said in his letter.
On Wednesday, Amazon said it would “temporarily” suspend all activity in France, where it has six warehouses, after a French court ruled it wasn’t doing enough to protect workers. Amazon, which his appealing the ruling, said in a statement “We are requesting employees of our distribution centers to stay at home. (In) the longer term, we will evaluate the impact of that (court) decision for them and our French logistic network.”
Before the pandemic, Amazon was already among the nation’s quartet of trillion-dollar companies. It currently is valued at $1.15 trillion, just behind Microsoft and Apple, at $1.31 trillion and $1.24 trillion, respectively, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Alphabet, parent company of Google, is valued at $866 billion.
Amazon shares have risen 21% so far this year, hitting a record high Wednesday of $2,333.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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