After spike in asymptomatic cases, N.J. Amazon warehouse serving Philly shuts down through Christmas

Boxes on a conveyor belt at an Amazon fulfillment center

This May 3, 2018, photo shows boxes on a conveyor belt during a tour of the Amazon fulfillment center in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Amazon has temporarily closed one of its distribution centers in Mercer County, New Jersey after finding an increase of asymptomatic coronavirus cases in their Robbinsville facility. The shutdown will continue until the day after Christmas “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a company spokesperson.

Amazon spokesperson Maria Boschetti offered little information about just how widespread the virus was in the facility Amazon calls “PNE5.” But this isn’t the first virus outbreak among Amazon warehouse workers.

Previous coronavirus outbreaks in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and facilities in other states prompted the company to announce plans to ramp up its testing program of warehouse employees this summer.

The way in-house testing is supposed to work, according to Amazon’s own plans listed on the company website, requires even asymptomatic workers to get tested every two weeks.

Boschetti didn’t respond to questions about how the testing program has panned out at Robbinsville in time for publication, except to say the program helped identify asymptomatic workers.

“This is exactly why we built the program — to identify asymptomatic cases and ensure that we can take swift action to prevent spread,” Boschetti said.

In April, two whistleblowers told New Jersey Advance Media that at least 48 employees had tested positive for the virus at an Edison fulfillment center. Coronavirus cases were also reported in Teterboro and Carteret.

A fuller picture of the spread of coronavirus among employees didn’t come until October when the company revealed 20,000 of its workers tested positive for the coronavirus between March and September.

The Robbinsville facility serves the Philadelphia region and Trenton, according to Bloomberg.

Boschetti said all employees will be paid for the shifts that they miss.

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