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Several FedEx Corp. at the company’s aviation hub in Newark, New Jersey, died of complications from the coronavirus. This is a sign of the number of casualties the outbreak has caused to frontline delivery workers.
The outbreak among FedEx employees has raised questions from New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who wrote to FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith about security protocols at the shipping giant.
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A FedEx spokeswoman declined to comment on the number of cases and deaths at the facility at Newark Liberty International Airport. She said the number of cases among workers there was not uncommon given the major outbreak in New Jersey and New York. It is one of six FedEx Air hubs in the US and employs around 2,100 people.
“We are deeply saddened that a small number of team members have succumbed to the virus or related complications,” the spokeswoman said. “We have contacted these families to express our deepest condolences.”
At least five FedEx employees have died in the past few weeks after testing positive for the virus, according to a report in Commercial Appeal in Memphis and Record in New Jersey.
A cargo plane will be dropped on the tarmac at the FedEx Corp. distribution center on Monday, December 15, 2014. refueled at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, USA. (Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
In a May 1 letter, Sen. Booker asked the company for information about diseases and procedures at the facility. “I am concerned about reports of loosely enforced social distancing guidelines, inadequate access to personal protective equipment, inadequate sanitation in the facility, and limited transparency from FedEx,” wrote Sen. Booker.
FedEx said it has diverted some of its air traffic away from Newark to limit the number of people who have to work there. It also checks the temperatures of workers, vendors and other visitors entering the hub, provides personal protective equipment to all workers, and often thoroughly cleans public areas.
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The company is also notifying workers who have been in close contact with infected workers, asking them to quarantine themselves for 14 days. According to the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close contact between 10 and 30 minutes is considered less than 6 feet. As a result, some employees who believe they have had prolonged exposure may not be told to quarantine themselves.
“Such contact may not conform to CDC guidelines and a period of self-quarantine would not be scientifically warranted,” wrote Richard Smith, who oversees the Americas for FedEx’s Express division, in a letter to Sen. Booker on Sunday .
Rival United Parcel Service Inc. is also faced with the question of how to ensure employee safety during the pandemic as the company continues to operate its extensive delivery network. UPS is cleaning its facilities more frequently, providing more disinfection and personal protection equipment, and taking other steps.
At least two UPS employees in Louisville have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, according to local officials and union leaders.
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