Gaps in Amazon’s Coronavirus Response Fuel Warehouse Workers’ Demands

David Zapolsky, the general counsel, said he had been frustrated by what he called a safety violation. “I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me,” he said.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, both of New Jersey, recently wrote to Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, to express concern about warehouse safety. The senators, all Democrats, condemned Mr. Zapolsky’s remarks in statements to The Times.

“It’s troubling, racist and has no place in our country,” Mr. Menendez said. “Amazon should do everything it can to protect its workers instead of disparaging them.”

Amazon’s response to the pandemic has differed from warehouse to warehouse. Over the years, that sort of autonomy has allowed Amazon to nimbly adjust to local market conditions. Now it is leading to distrust, as workers see some facilities close for cleaning while others remain open.

Since the first worker in the Queens facility learned on March 18 that he had tested positive, the company has learned of cases in more than 50 other facilities, out of the more than 500 it operates across the county.

In recent weeks, Amazon has raised wages and added quarantine leave, and it is offering overtime at double pay. It said it had tripled its janitorial staff. And it has added space between many workstations. But in private groups, conversations with their managers and public protests, some workers have expressed alarm about their safety.

Mr. Carney said the company had been cautious about telling workers about cases out of privacy concerns and because one of its first likely cases, a corporate employee in Europe, turned out not to have the virus. He said Amazon was managing the needs of its workers and the public the best it could in a situation for which no company has a real playbook.

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