Deadly COVID-19 Virus Is Attacking Workers In 6 Amazon Warehouses: Can You Get It From A Package?

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Written by Dana Sanchez
COVID-19 package
Deadly COVID-19 virus is attacking workers in 6 Amazon warehouses: Can you get it from a package? It’s a sticky virus, health experts say. Demonstrators hold images of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos during a Halloween-themed protest at Amazon headquarters over the company’s facial recognition system, “Rekognition,” Oct. 31, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

COVID-19 is a sticky virus, structurally endowed with a Darwinian superpower of being able to bond tightly to certain surfaces — especially skin but also plastic, fabric, wood and steel.

As the U.S. shuts down and Americans become increasingly dependent on having food, medicine and other necessities delivered to their front door by Amazon and others, many worry about catching COVID-19 from packages.

This virus can potentially be transmitted by contaminated objects, according to Scott Gottlieb. The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Gottlieb spoke during a Sunday interview on CBS News’s Face the Nation.

COVID-19 can remain “stable” on cardboard for up to 24 hours, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Temperature, air quality, and other variables can affect the stability of the virus, Geekwire reported.

In February, the U.S. Federal Reserve started quarantining dollar bills repatriated from Asia, holding them for seven to 10 days before allowing them to re-enter the domestic financial system, according to the New York Times. Banknotes are made of cotton pulp, not wood fiber.

However, representatives of the big three U.S. package deliverers — FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service — insist there is no need to quarantine packages. “The CDC has advised that there is a low risk of transmission on packages,” said Matthew O’Conner, a spokesman for U.P.S. FedEx, in a statement. “The guidance from the W.H.O. (World Health Organization) is that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low, and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”

But what if the person who delivered your package sneezed on it just before depositing it on your doorstep?

Scientists agree that coronavirus spreads mainly from an infected person to its next host by hitching a ride in the tiny drops that are sprayed into the air when a person sneezes or coughs.

The first known case of an infected worker at a U.S. Amazon warehouse was reported by The Atlantic last week. Amazon closed the Queens, N.Y. delivery station and associates were sent home with full pay, Geekwire reported. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Amazon workers at six U.S. warehouses have tested positive.

Amazon says it’s implementing preventative health measures for employees, delivery and transportation partners around the world such as more cleaning, social distancing and requiring employees to stay home and seek medical attention if they are feeling sick.

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Amazon plans to hire 100,000 more delivery and warehouse workers to keep up with demand.

Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about what they know about COVID-19:

“There is still a lot that is unknown about the newly emerged COVID-19 and how it spreads. Two other coronaviruses have emerged previously to cause severe illness in people (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV) … While we don’t know for sure that this virus will behave the same way as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, we can use the information gained from both of these earlier coronaviruses to guide us. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures … there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website as it becomes available.”