Amazon’s warehouse workers won’t be required to wear masks in the workplace anymore, so long as they’re fully vaccinated. According to The Wall Street Journal, the e-commerce giant told workers in a memo that it has eased its mask requirements due to the “sharp decline in COVID-19 cases across the country over the past weeks.” It also mentioned the increasing vaccination rates in the US as “a positive sign” of its return “to normal operations.”
The company required all workers to wear masks again in December following a spike of COVID cases in the US caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. That came half a year after it allowed fully vaccinated individuals to unmask while working, which some workers saw as a premature move. Amazon made its decision in the same week some states started rolling back their mask mandates and other pandemic restrictions. Walmart has dropped its mask rule for vaccinated workers at the same time.
In addition to easing its mask mandate, Amazon is also ending paid leave for workers who contract COVID-19 if they’re not vaccinated. Workers must be done with their second jab by March 18th to be qualified for paid leave. How workers feel about this change in rules remains to be seen, but Amazon has a history of clashing with its employees when it comes to COVID-related guidelines. In 2020, workers at its Staten Island warehouse sued the company, accusing it of failing to follow guidelines stated by the CDC and the government of New York. Then in 2021, Amazon agreed to pay $500,000 after the California attorney general found that it concealed its true COVID-19 case numbers from workers.