Amazon’s top safety official: Data from internal COVID testing led to temporary closure of Robbinsville facility

Amazon’s decision to temporarily close its fulfillment center in Robbinsville this week was made after an increase of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases were discovered through the company’s internal testing program, Heather MacDougall, the company’s worldwide vice president for workplace and safety, said Monday.

“I think it’s really a reflection of the ability of our on-site testing,” she told ROI-NJ. “We saw an increase in positive asymptomatic associates (when) looking at the data. And, from that data, we made the decision.”

On-site workplace testing its one of the more than 150 adjustments to safety protocols the company has made since the start of the pandemic, MacDougall said.

Employees are encouraged to be tested ever two weeks — although the program is voluntary. Tests are shipped to a lab run by Amazon in Kentucky, where they will be processed within 2-3 days, MacDougall said.

Because the process is done within Amazon, MacDougall noted it does not impact the capacity of whatever testing may be available in the area of a facility.

MacDougall said the internal testing was introduced to do what it did in Robbinsville — discover an issue before it became apparent to all in a larger outbreak.

“This was really why we developed the program,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that people who were asymptomatic and didn’t even know that they have COVID could be cared for, and that we can then keep other associates safe.

“So, (closing Robbinsville) is really out of an abundance of caution, just based on what we’re seeing, through our testing program.”

The facility will reopen after Christmas. The company has said all employees will be paid during the time the facility is closed.