Amazon confirms death of New York worker believed to have COVID-19

Amazon confirmed the death of a worker at the company’s distribution center in Bethpage, New York, who was believed to have COVID-19. 

“We are saddened by the loss of an associate who had worked at our site in Bethpage, New York. His family and loved ones are in our thoughts,” said Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokesperson.

According to the company’s statement, the employee last worked near the end of March and the site had began implementing social distancing measures near the end of February. 

It is unclear how or when the employee may have contracted COVID-19, or how other many Amazon employees in total have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

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According to a GoFundMe page set up to support funeral and memorial services, George Leigh passed on April 9 “due to what we think was COVID-19 complications.”

“He worked at Amazon as a supervisor/trainer and worked up until he got sick last week,” according to the GoFundMe page. “He was always caring, active, and funny. Just a joy to be around.”

The world’s largest retailer has been under a particularly critical microscope amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Amazon shipments have skyrocketed with individuals at home due to lockdown and stay-at-home orders. 

There have been concerns about the company’s larger COVID-19 safety and preventative policies within its many warehouses, as well as regarding delivery worker safety.

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Workers have expressed their grievances against Amazon through protests and strikes. In late April, there were calls for a “May Day General Strike” for workers at large companies such as Amazon and Instacart.

Instacart shoppers had previously striked in March, and Amazon employees across the U.S. had gone on strike with complaints that the company had not done enough to protect its employees amid the pandemic.

On May 12, calls from U.S. attorneys general asked for Amazon and Whole Foods to be in compliance with state laws and larger federal COVID-19 guidance.

There is no larger federal lockdown order or COVID-19 guidelines, so companies such as Amazon must abide by the procedures and protocols of the respective cities and states in which they practice business.

Because a person can only be confirmed to have COVID-19 if they are tested, it is difficult to accurately determine just how many people have been infected with the virus, let alone how many people have actually died from it. 

Rapid, widespread testing is considered essential to tracking and containing the coronavirus. But 41 of the nation's 50 states fail to test widely enough to drive their infections below a key benchmark, according to an AP analysis of metrics developed by Harvard’s Global Health Institute.

“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,” the Amazon spokesperson said in their statement. “Our rates of infection are at or below the rates of the communities where we operate.”

As of May 15, more than 86,000 people had died in the U.S. of the novel coronavirus and there were more than 306,000 deaths worldwide, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.