Amazon on Sunday evening advised the workers who sort and move your packages to wear face masks to work.
The company, however, says it has only a "limited" supply as it works to source more masks.
Amazon told Business Insider on Monday that there are enough masks for every employee in its operations network and grocery stores for several weeks, though distribution will have to be "deliberate."
The employees on Amazon's operations side received a text message Sunday evening saying they were "recommended" to wear a mask to work.
Amazon, however, said that it would have only "limited" quantities of masks available to employees and that they would have to ask a manager for the mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday began recommending that Americans cover their face when they leave their home.
The message said (emphasis ours):
"Your health and safety is most important. We recommend everyone wears a facemask of some kind covering their nose and mouth from arrival through departure of your shift. We will have facemasks in limited quantities for anyone entering the building to wear as a recommended preventative measure, and if you prefer you may bring your own mask, including fabric masks. We have teams working nonstop to continue sourcing supplies, including masks, and are working hard to stay in stock with masks during this event.
"If you would like a mask, please ask a manager or designated "Hand-out POC" at the start of your shift. The mask should be used by one person for the shift and not be shared. You must also know how to use it and dispose of it safely.
"Details will be posted around the site."
At the end of the text message, employees were advised to read a Thursday blog post from Dave Clark, the senior vice president of operations at Amazon. This communication said that disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer were already staples across Amazon's fulfillment network and that all locations would have masks by early in the week of April 5.
On Monday, a press representative for Amazon told Business Insider that there are actually enough masks for every employee in Amazon's warehouse and grocery network. However, a global shortage of masks means that the company has to be "deliberate" in distributing those masks.
"We have enough supply of masks for everyone in our operations network and grocery stories to last a few weeks and continue to procure more," Amazon said in a statement. "There is a mask shortage in the world right now so naturally we are being deliberate in our daily distributions."
Previously, a press representative for Amazon directed Business Insider to a post on Amazon's "Day One" corporate blog published Sunday, the same day Amazon sent the operations employees the text message. The representative declined to comment specifically on the "limited" quantities of masks available to employees.
The Amazon blog post said the company was distributing the "millions of masks we ordered weeks ago" to Amazon's operation network. The post also said masks would be available at "all sites in our operations network" early this week.
Avery Hartmans/Business Insider
The external communication from Amazon did not say limited quantities of masks would be available for operations workers, though that was made clear in the text message that employees received Sunday.
In the US, Amazon employs some 400,000 warehouse workers across more than 175 facilities. These employees all received a temporary $2-an-hour pay raise through April, and Amazon is hiring an additional 100,000 workers at the fulfillment centers.
"We have already hired over 80,000 people into those roles, and have spent more than $150 million to support our team of associates and partners," Clark wrote on Thursday. "We expect to go well beyond our initial $350 million investment in additional pay, and we will do so happily."
Employees at more than 50 Amazon warehouses have reported coronavirus cases, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Some workers fear Amazon has not adequately protected employees from the novel coronavirus, which has killed nearly 10,000 across the US as of Sunday.
In response, Amazon fulfillment employees in Michigan and New York have staged walkouts to protest Amazon's response to the coronavirus. Employees in Staten Island, New York, who protested said the company needed to offer more paid sick leave and to close the facility for a longer period of time to clean after workers there have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Clark wrote on Thursday that all workers who wanted time off were supported and that all those who could not secure a test for the coronavirus but showed symptoms were receiving extra paid time off. And in late March, the company began conducting temperature checks on employees at select warehouses in the Amazon network.
"I touch over 2,000 different items every day I work there. I have to grab products out of the shelf and put them in the bins. ... And I'm not wearing any protection," Terrell Worm, who works at Amazon's Staten Island location and participated in the walkout, told NPR. "Amazon says we're all a family there. If they really saw us as family, they'd care about keeping us safe and keeping us home."