Amazon Is Getting Rid of This Starting Monday
This is a major change to Amazon policy that reflects the current phase of the COVID pandemic.
Throughout the last year of the COVID pandemic, Amazon has become a service that countless people across the country have relied on. Even if the company faced the same supply shortages that plagued the rest of the U.S., it was still one of the easiest and most consistent ways to order household necessities at a time when many local businesses had temporarily shuttered. To make that happen, Amazon employees worked through challenging conditions, and there were COVID outbreaks at warehouses throughout the country. Thankfully, the tide has shifted, and starting May 24, the company is making a major change that reflects the current phase of the pandemic: Amazon is dropping its mask mandate for fully vaccinated warehouse employees.
On May 19, Amazon informed workers that anyone fully vaccinated would no longer have to wear a face covering on the job, CNN reports. Employees have to be more than two weeks out from their final dose of the COVID vaccine, and will need to share proof of vaccination. The lifted mask mandate only applies to areas that don't have a local mandate in place.
Amazon's decision to let its warehouse employees ditch their masks follows the CDC's May 13 announcement that its guidance had changed for fully vaccinated people, who can now go mask-free in most situations. Per current CDC guidelines, "Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance." More and more businesses are now updating their policies accordingly.
During the pandemic, Amazon warehouses were the site of multiple COVID outbreaks, as employees in tight quarters struggled to keep up with the demands of a populace increasingly relying on online shopping. In Oct. 2020, the company released data saying that over 19,000 employees—1.44 percent of Amazon's workforce—had contracted COVID, CNBC reports.
But the efficacy of the vaccines has been a game-changer, and the CDC's sudden about-face has mask mandates disappearing across the U.S. Certain areas are still maintaining their mask requirements, however, which is why a blog post on Amazon's site informs workers in states like California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts that they will still have to wear face coverings, even if they're fully vaccinated.
According to CNN, Amazon employees can upload their vaccination information to the employee app A to Z starting on May 24. Fully vaccinated workers will receive a green checkmark that will allow them to enter the building without a mask. In June, warehouse employees will get a badge sticker to designate their vaccination status, and they will have to upload a copy of their vaccine card to the app.
The ability to work without a mask isn't the only incentive Amazon employees have for getting the jab. In February, the company offered up to $80 to front-line workers getting the COVID vaccine, per the Amazon blog, and employees have been able to get vaccinated on-site in certain locations since March.
Of course, just because fully vaccinated warehouse workers don't have to wear masks anymore doesn't mean they won't want to. Despite the CDC's dramatically relaxed mask-wearing guidelines, many people have said they aren't ready to remove their face coverings, and health experts say it should be a matter of personal comfort. On the company blog, Amazon stresses that while fully vaccinated people may no longer need to wear masks, "anyone is welcome to continue wearing a face covering."