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Amazon to require warehouse workers to wear masks

Amazon will require all employees at its vast network of warehouses and delivery hubs to begin wearing masks Monday regardless of vaccination status, a significant shift as more U.S. companies reinstate Covid-19 mitigation efforts as cases spike in various parts of the country.

Employees were previously allowed to not wear masks if they had proof of vaccination. Amazon said in an announcement to employees on Friday that extra precautions need to be taken “in response to the rapid spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant in the U.S. and guidance from public health authorities and our own medical experts.” The company added it hopes this new requirement will be temporary and last only a “few weeks.” It confirmed the change in policy to NBC News.

Amazon continued to encourage all its employees to get vaccinated. 

“We believe getting vaccinated is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself,” the employee announcement read.

Some other companies with large workforces have instituted similar policies in recent days. Walmart shared last week it will begin requiring all employees in stores in high-risk areas to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. For corporate and management-level employees at Walmart, vaccinations will be required to return to the office. 

While Amazon has not said whether it will mandate vaccinations for any of its employees, the company did share with its corporate workers that the date for peoples to begin returning to the office was pushed from early September to early January in response to the changing conditions of the pandemic.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to follow local government guidance and work closely with leading medical healthcare professionals, gathering their advice and recommendations as we go forward to ensure our buildings are optimized for the safety of our teams,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement confirming the new mask requirement.

Amazon’s decision to again require all employees to wear masks comes as the company shared last month that it’s discontinuing some of the Covid safety protocols it rolled out in its warehouses in 2020, including on-site Covid testing for employees. Its decision to relax the rules has caused concern among Amazon workers nationwide, who say cases of the coronavirus have been on the rise in their facilities, according to interviews with multiple Amazon employees in July.

The company said on its recent investor call that it employs 950,000 people in the United States — or 1 in every 169 U.S. workers. 

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