Union: At least 36 UPS employees in Arizona facility tested positive for COVID-19

Posted at 9:07 PM, May 21, 2020

The union representing UPS workers in Tucson, Arizona, says there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 at one of its facilities.

Teamsters Local 104 said in a news release Thursday they believe at least 36 employees of a key UPS distribution facility in Tucson have tested positive for the coronavirus, three of whom were admitted to intensive care units.

A recent investigation found several people in Tucson waiting weeks for deliveries from UPS due to staffing issues related to COVID-19 and a higher-than normal volume of packages at the facility on Silverlake Road. In that investigation, UPS declined to say how many of its employees had tested positive for the virus.

In Thursday's news release, the union accuses UPS of mishandling the situation by not implementing proper mitigation strategies, testing workers frequently or requiring daily temperature and health screenings.

The union also says it's worried that the outbreak could be spreading COVID-19 throughout the Tucson area. They cite a New England Journal of Medicine study published in April that found the virus can survive on cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours.

In a response to an initial investigation of delivery delays, UPS released a statement detailing their protocols for handling a positive case of COVID-19 among employees. The statement said, in part:

If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, we undertake two big efforts. First, communicating with co-workers. Second, making sure the facility is cleaned before the work area is used again and employees are reminded about hygiene and other protocols.

The union also says UPS is bringing out-of-state workers to the Tucson facility to cover for those affected by the virus.

We continue to operate in line with demand and the needs of our customers, except where limited by government restrictions. We have both a privilege and a responsibility to continue safely working during this challenging period.

Packages are returned to sender if they cannot be successfully delivered after three attempts and they have been held for nine days. This most likely happens because the business is closed and alternative arrangements have not been made, or if the delivery requires a signature and we have not been able to make contact with the customer to verify their identify. We have suspended signing for signature-required deliveries, but are still verifying identification while social distancing.
If there are some specific deliveries in question, please share or ask the customer(s) to share the 1Z tracking numbers with us and we’ll investigate the situation.
If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, we undertake two big efforts. First, communicating with co-workers. Second, making sure the facility is cleaned before the work area is used again and employees are reminded about hygiene and other protocols.

Communicating with co-workers

When UPS learns of a COVID-19 positive case, we inform co-workers in their immediate work area that a case exists, without disclosing the individual identity of the ill employee due to healthcare privacy concerns. We are disclosing the incidents to co-workers who need to know because of their potential contact with the ill employee, however we do not communicate site-wide those instances of a diagnosis, as this is beyond the scope of guidance provided by public health officials.
We follow public health authority protocols and assist those officials with identifying the employee’s contact trace. We know that there are many potential sources of infection and we do not assume that cases of infection occur as a result of the work environment. We recommend to co-workers that they self-monitor and contact a physician if any symptoms occur.
If there is a need to disclose a positive case to the news media for public health reasons, that disclosure will come from local health departments or other responding authorities.

Cleaning before returning to work

We thoroughly clean and disinfect the work areas where that employee worked according to public health department recommendations before work resumes. The requirements vary from state-to-state, but generally involve a bleach-based cleaner applied to all surfaces in the work area.
We are vigilantly taking steps to protect the health and welfare of our employees, customers, and the general public. We continue sharing hygiene protocols, social distancing information and protective equipment in line with the CDC’s ongoing guidance. We have distributed protective equipment to employees and we are regularly replenishing supplies at our facilities. This includes masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, hand soap, wipes, and other bleach-based disinfecting solutions. We strongly recommend that our employees wear masks or face coverings, and we have provided our employees with the guidelines to properly use them.<p></p><p>The company also has modified, and will continue to modify as needed, our normal operating procedures to maintain social distance protocols. For example, we have added space between work stations inside our facilities, added security personnel to regulate lines to ensure social distancing, and modified turnstile entry procedures and changed access to service counters and other public spaces. We have also significantly increased cleaning and disinfecting our vehicles, equipment and work surfaces throughout our 2,800 global facilities. Further, we have modified our delivery processes so that our service providers do not have to come in contact with customers to obtain a signature, thereby ensuring we continue to deliver safely."</p>

This article was written by Sam Radwany for KGUN.