'It's Up to Us': Workers Have to Track Virus Cases

Employers, it seems, aren't revealing the numbers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 19, 2020 3:10 PM CDT
Virus-Tracking Workers Become Amateur Sleuths
Katie Doan, a former Whole Foods employee, poses for a photo Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Costa Mesa, Calif. Doan started tracking COVID-19 cases at Amazon-owned Whole Foods in April.   (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Jana Jumpp spends eight hours a day updating a spreadsheet—not for work, but a recent hobby: figuring out how many of Amazon's 400,000 warehouse workers have fallen sick with the coronavirus, the AP reports. Amazon won't give a number, so Jumpp tracks it on her own and shares what she finds with others. She relies on Amazon employees at more than 250 facilities who communicate possible cases. She asks for proof, like messages or voicemails from Amazon, and tries to make sure she doesn’t count the same case twice. It's time consuming, but Jumpp says workers should know if there's an outbreak and just how risky it is to head to work. "Amazon is not going to do it, so it's up to us," says Jumpp, 58, who lost her job in July at an Amazon warehouse in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Major companies are keeping their employees in the dark on just how prevalent the virus is in their warehouses, stores, and meatpacking plants. That has left workers like Jumpp to become amateur sleuths in their spare time. Unions and advocate groups have taken up the cause, too, creating lists or building online maps of stores where workers can self-report cases they know about. The numbers are publicized by the unions and labor groups and used to organize worker protests. But mainly, the reason for collecting them is so that workers can make decisions about their health. Companies typically notify employees if they may have been exposed to the virus by a coworker but critics claim they won't reveal the totals because it could spook workers and turn off customers.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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