back to article Amazon accused of grossly underreporting COVID-19 cases to US labor agency

It's claimed Amazon reported only 27 COVID-19 cases among fulfillment center workers to federal government health officials, despite the company's admission that nearly 20,000 employees had been infected last year. The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), a coalition of four labor unions, has called for the Occupational Safety …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    Well, I hope Amazon gets more than just the opportunity to pay a few dollars to make everything go away.

    After all they are breaking federal law not committing a misdemeanor, Bezos or somebody at the top should be in orange pyjamas for this.

    1. msobkow Silver badge

      Unfortunately, the maximum penalties still only amount to a mere minutes or hours of Amazon's revenue. As with many overly large corporations, they consider fines and penalties a cost of doing business - and a cost effective one, at that. It is profitable for them to break the law. :(

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Infected cases

      I guess the devil is in the detail. So what is the difference between the 27 reported case and the unreported?

      I suspect the reported were too sick to work. Rest may depend on policy conflicts and the lousy definition of a 'case'. So someone gets a PCR test, it comes back positive. AFAIK, that positive is meant to be reported by whoever administered the test, or by individual if it was a self-test. And then the individual is expected to self-isolate. Presumably they're also expected to inform their employer as well to explain their absence. Hopefully Amazon didn't expect the person to break quarantine and work. But there may be the possibility that a person went to work anyway, in which case, would Amazon know?

      So it seems a bit confusing. I don't know if test protocols mean employers are automaticly informed. If so, that has privacy implications, ie sharing sensitive personal information. But employers probably should know because it's an infectious disease that could infect the rest of the workforce. And then there's the measures that may or may not have been in place to protect employees. But if they're not actually sick, what obligation does the employer have, if it's not really a workplace injury, and the case should have already been reported?

      But seems like an interesting challenge because I guess from an epidemiological point, you want to be able to track the spread of infection, which means knowing about carriers and potential contacts.

      But there's still a lot of Covid FUD, or just outright bollox. So the EU is mulling mandatory vaccination, even though current vaccines don't seem very effective. So reports of people being infected with Delta, or Omicron despite being 'fully vaccinated'. But that's to be expected given vaccines don't always work, especially against a virus that mutates. So should policy shift to treating people who actually get sick, rather than wasting billions chasing a moving target in the wild?

      Especially as there are also risks with vaccination. So the Bbc again. It has a helpful explainer about the thrombosis risk, with researchers proposing a potential mechanism. And a nice graphic that explains the process. But also says It is injected into the muscle but sometimes leaks into the blood stream. . Which clearly shows their health reporter has little clue, so sadly normal for the Bbc. The whole point of intramuscular injection is the muscle has a good blood supply to distribute whatever has been injected, so there's no 'sometimes' about it.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Infected cases

        So reports of people being infected with Delta, or Omicron despite being 'fully vaccinated'. But that's to be expected given vaccines don't always work

        How many times must this be restated: The vaccines while not 100% effective in preventing infection they significantly reduce the effects if it is contracted.

        So - No vaccine - risk possible death from contracting C19

        Or - Vaccinated - risk inconvenience and feeling grotty for a week or so from contracting C19.

        Also vaccinated people are far less likely to infect other people with C19 which is a vital tool to reduce spread.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Infected cases

          > Also vaccinated people are far less likely to infect other people with C19 which is a vital tool to reduce spread.

          If you're talking strictly about Infectiousness, I'm afraid the later analyses (eg by Public Health England) demonstrate this early assumption to be wrong. All of the vaccines looked at provide no reduction (0%) of infectiousness.

          To put it another way, an infected person's Infectiousness is not affected by their vaccination status. A vaccinated person will infect others just as readily as an unvaccinated person.

          1. DJO Silver badge

            Re: Infected cases

            Slightly disingenuous way of looking at it.

            Vaccinated people are less likely to contract C19 than unvaccinated people, therefore given 2 groups of the same size members of the unvaccinated group will be far more likely to transmit C19 because they are more likely to contract C19.

            Also in most cases vaccinated people recover sooner so are contagious for less time.

            1. AJ MacLeod

              Re: Infected cases

              Really? I think you mean that vaccinated people are less likely to experience symptoms than unvaccinated people. Also, your point about vaccinated people "recovering sooner" is spurious - infectiousness is not directly related to symptoms at all, hence the ten day isolation period regardless of how well or otherwise the individual might feel.

              From personal experience... I (unvaccinated) recently had C19, infected by a double-vaccinated person who didn't realise they had it. My symptoms, pretty mild, lasted one night and one morning... I was no more or less infectious than the fully vaccinated person I caught it from except that I was better able to realise I was infected than they were.

              I am not in general anti-vaccine (I was going to attend the one local drop-in session in the summer until I realised they'd advertised it barely a few hours beforehand and it was already over.) However, the amount of vaccine hysteria and nasty, insidious society-splitting pressure from governments; the outright lies and ridiculous attempts by academia to twist and distort their own findings regarding vaccine efficacy has made me glad I haven't had it and I certainly won't be getting it now unless by force.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: Infected cases

                Germany seems to be heading that way. It has around 30% of it's population currently unvaccinated. Who'll now be treated to special measures for refusing to follow orders. Meanwhile, the 'fully vaccinated' will be free to shed & spread the virus, as well as falling ill. In which case, there seems to be some good news, if Omicron infections are mild.

                But such is politics. Cases must be counted and placebos administered by hippocrytic oafs who don't seem to understand that vaccines need (generally) tailoring to a specific strain. And over time, populations develop natural immunity.

              2. DJO Silver badge

                Re: Infected cases

                I think you mean that vaccinated people are less likely to experience symptoms than unvaccinated people.

                No I mean what I said and I said what I meant

                Also, your point about vaccinated people "recovering sooner" is spurious

                No it isn't. I said "in most cases" yes there will be outliers but on average unvaccinated people are sick for longer.

                infectiousness is not directly related to symptoms at all

                Never said it was, it is however related to how likely people are to contract C19 and to a lesser degree how long they are sick with it. These and other factors such as unvaccinated are more likely to object to basic health provisions such as masks and distancing mean that the unvaccinated are more of a risk to not just themselves but to everybody else too.

                I could refute more but I really can't be bothered - I'm supposed to be working.

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Re: Infected cases

                  You aren't really refuting anything, only stating your opinion. Or as wiki might say citation needed. Which is back to FUD. Or perhaps the Bbc is right and vaccination only works on the arm you're injected in.

                  Otherwise, we know more than we did a couple of years ago. Vaccines aren't as effective as originally claimed, especially against the new strains. Claims like 'it makes you less sick' need supporting evidence. Is that as a result of the vaccines, milder strains, better treatments etc etc? Or although Germany has experience forcing medical procedures on undesirables, what's the point, if people will still be infected and infectious. And despite some experts re-writing science to claim naturally acquired antibodies are inferior to those from patent medicines, there's little evidence to support that claim.

                  But I guess Germany could try something useful. It knows 30% of it's population hasn't been vaccinated. It doesn't know how many need to be. So it would be interesting to do antibody testing first to see how many of the unvaccinated population have acquired natural immunity from previous exposure. And I suspect that would be a high percentage, especially as for a lot of people, they may have experienced few or no symptoms.

                  1. This post has been deleted by its author

                  2. msobkow Silver badge

                    Re: Infected cases

                    There are many things that are known about vaccines and their impact on break through cases overall in the human population. COVID is not some outlier that doesn't follow the same patterns as other diseases at all; we know from breakthrough cases of smallpox and the like over the decades that the infections that result are much milder and shorter lasting than for unimmunized people.

                    Drawing lines in the sand when you have no medical background or citations to suggest what you are saying is valid is perfectly valid when common and well-known assumptions are being stated. The fact that one is not aware of them doesn't mean they aren't "common knowledge" to people who are paying attention to the subject matter.

                  3. Scubadynamo

                    Re: Infected cases

                    Our entire office is double jabbed. In September all of us tested positive for covid after it was brought into the office by one lady who had been visiting her grandmother in hospital (1 in 3 transmissions happen in hospital with covid). Now none of us had strong symptoms, I had practically no symptoms but we all tested positive, for about a week or so and since then we all test positive for the antibodies on the finger prick test and we didn’t before.

                    The vaccine mandates are for governments to help relieve pressure on hospitals temporarily, it’s got nothing to do with stopping the spread scientifically speaking. But this is going to need to happen every year to account for new variants. I’m not up for that, il have the booster but then if they start talking about a 4th jab I’m going to say no, it gets to the point when a young, healthy person like me should be relying on my immune system and not risking yearly rushed vaccinations.

                    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                      Re: Infected cases

                      Your experience is part of the problem with 'cases'. Normally that would mean requiring some form of medical intervention. And testing should really be for viral load, not antibodies. As you say, you'd expect a positive as you'd have antibodies from both vaccination and exposure. But that shouldn't make you a 'case', even though you're still meant to report the result and self-isolate.

                      But just be glad you're not in North Australia, where a positive result might mean being forced into a quarantine camp. And then charged 2,500 for a 10 night stay.

                2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                  Re: Infected cases

                  DJO:

                  > Slightly disingenuous way of looking at it. ... transmit

                  Very incorrect and misleading language to use then, if you actually intend to refer to Transmission rather than Infection. That's why I was careful to be specific when replying to your language, as your language referred to Infectiousness but was only non-incorrect if you meant Transmission.

                  Your point re Transmission is, in theory and in the general case of most other vaccines, valid. In practice and w.r.t. Covid vaccines, however, you should have made clear that this reduction in Transmission for the vaccinated lasts only a matter of a few months, because the protection vs Infection decays extremely quickly -- only the protection vs Hospitalisation&Death remains at a reasonable level. After those few months, there is no appreciable difference in Transmission rates regardless of vaccination status. You did not mention this. So regardless of whether you meant to speak more broadly than your explicit wording, your comment still doesn't stand.

                  >> infectiousness is not directly related to symptoms at all

                  >Never said it was, it is however related to how likely people are to contract C19

                  I strongly suggest you get clear in your head, and your comments, the difference between Infectiousness and overall Transmission. Right now, you are jumbling them.

                  > Also in most cases vaccinated people recover sooner so are contagious for less time.

                  This is quite wrong, I'm afraid. There is no difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated infected persons' total infectiousness, because people are only materially infectious in the early stages of the disease. The infectious period is well inside the normal length of infection for both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

              3. Boothy Silver badge

                Re: Infected cases

                Quote: "Really? I think you mean that vaccinated people are less likely to experience symptoms than unvaccinated people."

                From the Aug 2021 REACT study, which shows the fully vaccinated are three times less likely to be infected.

                Quote:

                * unvaccinated people were three times more likely than fully vaccinated people to test positive for COVID-19, with prevalence at 1.21% and 0.40%;

                * double vaccinated people in the most recent round were estimated to have around 50 to 60% reduced risk of infection, including asymptomatic infection, compared to unvaccinated people;

                * those who were fully vaccinated may be less likely to pass on the virus to others than those who have not received a vaccine;

                * 3.84% of double-vaccinated individuals who reported recent contact with a known COVID-19 case tested positive, compared to 7.23% of unvaccinated individuals;

                The figures have likely changed a little bit since these were done in August (and were based on the Delta variant), but it clearly shows vaccinated people are less likely to get infected, not just experience less symptoms, than unvaccinated people.

                Bear in mind, infected doesn't just mean you have some of the virus in you, it means it's got to be at a high enough level to be detectable, cause issues, contagious etc. A vaccinated person [*] will start fighting the virus much sooner than someone unvaccinated (as that's the whole point of vaccinations). So many vaccinated people who end up with C19 in their system, will simply fight it off before it gets to a point where it was detectable, or contagious etc.

                Obviously this differs from person to person, and vaccine to vaccine, so whilst vaccinated person A might never get to an infection level, vaccinated person B might well do so, and person A might get hit by a new strain later on etc.

                *Edit: Also worth stating, anyone with immunity, not just vaccinated, such as those who caught C19 recently.

                1. AJ MacLeod

                  Re: Infected cases

                  I think we actually mostly agree. My main problem is with the way data from these studies is reported, even within their own abstracts and conclusions, never mind the spin (and in some cases, outright and deliberate lies) governments put on them afterwards.

                  I am quite familiar with writing and publishing scientific papers from a previous career and am all too aware that published "science" is not the untainted non-political gospel truth that many wish to believe. There are some red flags that I've seen all too frequently in my browsing of the literature on C19, including; brazenly comparing best cases for the "desired outcome" set against worst cases for the opposite; making authoritative sounding statements where the error bars are so huge as to negate any real conclusion; excessive use of estimates and then later treating these as good hard data; and so on.

                  I will reiterate - I am not questioning that vaccines reduce symptoms for most people, I am not saying they are overall a bad thing; I am saying that the more I see data being distorted, and politicians making serious restrictions on liberty and the right to manage one's on body based on illogical and self-contradictory reasoning, the more suspicious I become.

                  1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                    Re: Infected cases

                    > ...the more I see data being distorted...

                    Hear hear. I mean, just take a quick squint at that linked page. Marketing, yes; real-world genuine information, mostly no.

                    The only thing there which contains meaningful information is this:

                    > > * 3.84% of double-vaccinated individuals who reported recent contact with a known COVID-19 case tested positive, compared to 7.23% of unvaccinated individuals;

                    Which states that the sample-average vaccine effectiveness (VE) vs Infection has already dropped to 47%.

                    Note this conflicts with their "50-60%" statement which is based on a model but not clearly stated to be. Which further underlines your own general observations re the general quality/honesty of research&data reporting.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Infected cases

        "Hopefully Amazon didn't expect the person to break quarantine and work. But there may be the possibility that a person went to work anyway, in which case, would Amazon know?"

        Considering Amazons fetish for Big Data, it'd be rather surprising that they didn't know what was going on. Surely they were tracking the cases, reports and, considering the alleged employee surveillance and tracking that goes on in their warehouses, they should have been highly suspicious of their own figures a long time ago.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Justice

    So I read reports that Amazon workers sleep in tents near warehouses to save money on rent.

    And here we are $500k settlement, that workers will never see.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge

    The tail wags the dog

    Amazon simply don’t care about these things, it would appear.

  4. ghp

    It would've been news if Jeff had treated his slaveforce correctly.

  5. sabroni Silver badge
    Boffin

    Still very convenent for cusomers though

    And we don't give two shits about warehouse plebs.

  6. hoola Silver badge

    Statistics...

    The numbers just don't make sense. Amazon are a huge employer so the low numbers defy an normal logic.

    But on the other hand maybe the Amazon workplace is totally Covid Secure and all their workers are testing daily.......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Statistics...

      Have we all forgotten all those reassuring ads (in the UK at least) from the beginning of the pandemic showing just how well Amazon were helping their workers.

      It must have worked as they only had 27 cases

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Statistics...

      “Amazon has failed to explain why it believes that out of the tens of thousands of its employees infected with COVID-19, virtually none of them were infected at work,” the SOC said in a statement.

      Simple explanation really -- Amazon didn't ask them whether they acquired Covid at work, the employees didn't say, so Amazon could not check the box next to infected at work. The really amusing statistic is that Amazon actually had 27 individuals out of 19,816 who spoke up and said they were infected at work, despite not being asked. The Amazon TQM team is trying to improve that performance metric.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blanquer syndrom

    In France, we have an amazingly amazing dude, called Blanquer.

    Dude is, as per official gov. web site, the minister of education.

    He'll be remembered as the guy who claimed "no Covid transmission happened in schools, one year ago". Not a single one, honest.

    The funny thing is the statement is a double impossible one: you can't know whether "event X didn't happen anywhere in schools",

    and you also can never know how/where/when this virus infection occurred !

    I think Blanquer will join Barzach, once minister of health in 1986, who stated the Tchernobyl cloud didn't touch France, basically being stopped by the border ...

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