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April 2, 2020 5:00 PM, EDT

Amazon Diverts Masks to Hospitals, Pledges Warehouse Safety

An employee collects a package from a conveyor at the Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville, N.J., in 2018.An employee collects a package from a conveyor at the Amazon fulfillment center in Robbinsville, N.J., in 2018. (Bess Adler/Bloomberg News)

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Amazon.com Inc. said it will divert sales of masks and other medical supplies to hospitals and government entities.

Millions of protective masks began arriving this week, Dave Clark, Amazon’s logistics chief, said in a blog post published April 2. The company is donating N95 masks it acquires to health care workers, as well as selling them at cost through Amazon’s business and government sales program, he said.

An Amazon notice to sellers on its marketplace said products like N95 masks, face shields and surgical gowns, among other items, would be made available exclusively to hospitals and government organizations.

Clark also said that Amazon has stepped up safety precautions at its warehouses. Clark’s team has come under fire from U.S. senators and state attorneys general, labor unions and some of his own front-line employees for the company’s response to COVID-19 cases in its warehouses.

Critics say Amazon has been slow to inform workers and the public and that the company has sometimes failed to adhere to federal guidance for businesses that stay open during the pandemic.

Amazon is now checking the temperature of more than 100,000 of its nearly 800,000 employees daily, Clark said. That screening, which started for employees in the Seattle and New York areas March 29, will be rolled out to the rest of the company’s U.S. and European logistics sites and Whole Foods Market stores by early next week, he said.

“With over 1,000 sites around the world, and so many measures and precautions rapidly rolled out over the past several weeks, there may be instances where we don’t get it perfect, but I can assure you that’s just what they’ll be — exceptions,” Clark said.

Clark addressed a recurring complaint from employees and contractors: that they don’t have enough cleaning supplies, from santizing wipes, to hand sanitizer and personal masks, to feel safe in their jobs.

“Nothing is more important to us than making sure that we protect the health of our teams, and we’ve been working around the clock since the early days of the outbreak to make changes to our processes and procure the necessary supplies for this,” Clark said.

The company also said it has hired 80,000 people to help meet demand for online orders from people hunkered down during the pandemic. The company would likely go “well beyond” its prior estimate of an additional $350 million in costs to support a growing workforce. Amazon last month said it would hire some 100,000 additional employees to help pack, ship and deliver items.

Amazon shares gained more than 1% at 12:47 p.m. in New York and are up almost 4% so far this year.

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