The 1-million-square-foot fulfillment center in southeast Salem owned by online retail giant Amazon was one of the companies named in recent OSHA complaints. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

The Oregon Health Authority is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 among five workers at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Salem.

The agency began publicizing outbreaks at workplaces last week and included the cases at Amazon in its daily COVID-19 update on Thursday, June 4.

“The risk to the general public from this outbreak is considered low,” OHA said in its update.

OHA began its investigation on May 21 and state and county public health officials are working with the retail giant to address the outbreak and protect workers, the agency said.

While OHA said that the outbreak was at Amazon’s Aumsville facility, company spokesperson Brittany Parmley said in an email that the facility is in Salem at 4775 Depot Ct. S.E. Tim Heider, OHA spokesman, wouldn’t clarify if the facility is in Salem or Aumsville.

Parmley said that the three most recent cases involve three individuals who work at the facility and live together. All three are quarantining at home with full pay, she said.

“Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we expect to invest approximately $4 billion from April to June on COVID-related initiatives to get products to customers and keep employees safe,” she said.

She said the company will spend $800 million in the first half of the year on COVID-19 safety measures that include enhanced cleaning, social distancing measures and process changes. The company has also distributed masks and other personal protective gear to employees, implemented disinfectant spraying and temperature checks across its operations worldwide, she said.

In March, Amazon disclosed that an employee at the warehouse tested positive for the virus.

According to Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration records, as of May 4, Amazon has had 22 complaints lodged against alleging the employer is not following workplace rules intended to prevent the spread of the virus. Three of those complaints have been lodged against Amazon’s Salem facility.

In May, a former employee at the Salem warehouse filed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging the retailer retaliated against her for speaking out about safety issues related to the pandemic and taking medical leave.

Since the pandemic, Amazon has been criticized by workers and labor groups for its working conditions at its warehouses. The company has fired workers who publicly called conditions at its warehouses unsafe.  

According to the OHA’s most recent COVID-19 Weekly Report released yesterday, three workplaces in Marion County have active outbreaks. They include the Oregon State Penitentiary where 167 inmates and employees have the virus, MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility with five and Santiam Correctional Institute with 14.

In Polk County, Meduri Farms has seven cases, according to the report.

More information on the outbreak will be available in the OHA weekly report slated for release on Wednesday, June 10.

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.