SAN FRANCISCO: Amazon.com has started to use thermal cameras at its warehouses to speed up screening for feverish workers who could be infected with the coronavirus, employees told Reuters. The cameras in effect measure how much heat people emit relative to their surroundings. They require less time and contact than forehead thermometers, earlier adopted by Amazon, workers said. Cases of the virus have been reported among staff at more than 50 of Amazon’s US warehouses. That has prompted some workers to worry for their safety and walk off the job. Unions and elected officials have called on Amazon to close buildings down. The use of cameras, previously unreported, shows how America’s second-biggest corporate employer is exploring methods to contain the virus’ spread without shuttering its warehouses. US states have given Amazon the green light to deliver goods with nearly all the country under stay-at-home orders. In France, Amazon has closed six of its fulfillment centers temporarily — one of the biggest fallouts yet from a dispute with workers over the risks of coronavirus contagion. Companies that have explored using the thermal cameras include Tyson Foods and Intel. The camera systems, which garnered widespread use at airports in Asia after the SARS epidemic in 2003, can cost between $5,000 and $20,000.
Amazon has set up the hardware for the thermal cameras in at least six warehouses outside Los Angeles and Seattle, where the company is based, according to employees and posts on social media. Thermal cameras will also replace thermometers at worker entrances to many of Amazon’s Whole Foods stores, according to a recent staff note seen by Reuters and previously reported by Business Insider. The company performs a second, forehead thermometer check on anyone flagged by the cameras to get an exact temperature, a worker said. An international standard requires the extra check, though one camera system maker said the infrared scan is more accurate. Early this month, Amazon said it would offer face masks and start checking hundreds of thousands of people for fevers daily at all its US and European warehouses. Associates walk up to a Plexiglas screen, and an employee on the other side scans their forehead through a small hole. That process has not been without challenges. A worker performing temperature checks in Houston said his proximity to associates made him uncomfortable, in spite of the screen separating them. “I didn’t sign up for this,” he said.
$3,500 – In San Francisco, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around $3,500-3,700 a month.
“We can’t have people accumulating debts during this time so when this is all over, they might end up on the street. They’re working to pay off debts as opposed to getting their life back together and up and running,” said Hillary Ronen, a San Francisco district supervisor. “It’s going to stall the economy. It makes no sense at all.” With other local elected officials, she called on the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, on Congress and on President Donald Trump to cancel rents and extend mortgage payments for landlords. In San Francisco, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is “around $3,500-3,700 a month. It’s obscene,” said Ronen. “We need either a mass infusion of cash directly to renters, or we need cancelation of rents during the period of stay-at-home order. If we do not have one of those two things, we will have a mass eviction crisis where individuals and families will end up homeless on the streets of this country, in huge large numbers,” said Ronen.About 2,000 people have pledged not to pay their next month’s rent to the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which provides legal aid to rent strikers as one of several organizations overseeing the movement. Ricky Zepeda, 44, ended up paying $600 of his $1,600 rent for April on his three-room apartment in Richmond, in the Bay Area. He acted as main spokesman for everybody in the seven occupied units of his building, who initially agreed to join the rent strike. “Everybody said ‘yeah let’s do it,’ but then they got scared and backed out. In April, half of them paid whole thing, most of the other paid part of it,” Zepeda said. Zepeda is legally blind, his wife lost her job at a food packing plant and his 22-year-old daughter, who also lives at home, say her hours cut to one day a week at the check cashing place where she works. So what Zepeda did pay for the April rent came from his disability check. He said he does not know what he will do in May. “We are in survival mode right now.”
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