Amazon: employee at Opa-Locka center tests positive for COVID-19

OPA-LOCKA, FLA. (WSVN) - An employee at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Opa-Locka has tested positive for COVID-19, the company said.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson said, “We are supporting the individual, who is recovering. We are following guidelines from health officials and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site.”

Hundreds of employees work at the massive facility, located off Northwest 140th Street and 37th Avenue.

A local resident whose wife works at the fulfillment center said he’s deeply concerned.

“My level of concern is extremely high, and I’m considering telling my wife not to even bother going back because we have a child, and I don’t want my child getting sick,” said the man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Amazon officials said they have informed their employees here about the confirmed case, and they’re alerting associates who had close contact with the person. The company has asked them not to return to work and self-quarantine for 14 days.

The company said they have stepped up cleaning and sanitation at all of their sites around the world.

But the husband of the Opa-Locka employee said his wife has yet to see these measures take place, at least at her workplace.

“Not at all. There has been zero evidence and, you know, she’s not the only one that I’ve heard this from,” he said. “I have other friends that work there, too.”

Earlier this week, Jay Carney, an Amazon senior vice president, spoke with CNN about what the company is doing to keep its massive workforce safe from COVID-19.

“We’re meeting every day. We’re consulting with medical experts to get the best possible information we can to make sure that we’re doing the right thing by our employees,” he said, “so that they can turn around and deliver essential goods to millions of Americans around the country and millions of people around the world.”

Delivery of those packages raises another concern, this time for Amazon’s customers. With so many people staying home, the online delivery service is in high demand.

There are also questions about how long the virus can remain on various surfaces where people could pick up the disease.

“They may touch a surface that someone infected with the virus may have touched hours or days before,” said Dr. Nikita Desai, who works at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists found the coronavirus was detectable on various surfaces for up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, but only four hours on copper, which is used as a material in some hospital beds.

The virus can also remain up to 24 hours on cardboard, which is used in packaging.

The company said, even though the risk of catching COVID-19 from a delivery is low, customers can take some simple precautions.

“There is that evidence that the virus can live on packaging for some period of time. So far, I believe the [World Health Organization] and [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have not said that there’s a case of transmission from packaging,” said Carney. “Our advice to customers is to take the precautions that they feel are the right ones for them. Wipe down packages with disinfectant.”

Amazon officials said any employee who tests positive for COVID-19 or who is self-isolating will be paid for up to two weeks.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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