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Amazon tells all employees to work from home if they can

The Amazon headquarters sits virtually empty on March 10, 2020 in downtown Seattle, Washington. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon recommended all employees in its Seattle office to work from home, leaving much of downtown nearly void of people.

John Moore | Getty Images

Amazon is telling all of its employees globally to stay home through the month of March, as the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads.

“We continue to work closely with public and private medical experts to ensure we are taking the right precautions as the situation continues to evolve,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement. “As a result, we are now recommending that all of our employees globally who are able to work from home do so through the end of March.”

The decision comes as the coronavirus continues to spread. As of Thursday evening, there were more than 127,800 confirmed cases of the virus worldwide and at least 4,718 deaths. There were at least 1,323 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. and at least 38 deaths. 

Amazon said it’s encouraging all employees who can work from home to do so to enable greater social distancing and lessen the impacts on public transportation. The directive applies to all employees whose work requires them to be in an office, store, fulfillment center or in vehicles making deliveries. 

Additionally, Amazon said it would continue to pay all of its hourly employees that support its offices around the world. This includes food service employees, security guards and janitorial staff.

Unlike employees at Amazon’s corporate offices, many fulfillment center employees and delivery drivers cannot carry out their job duties while working from home. Amazon’s sprawling fulfillment network, which powers the one-day and two-day delivery customers have come to expect, employs more than 250,000 workers at more than 110 sites across the country. The company also relies, in part, on its own network of delivery service partners and Flex drivers to handle the last mile portion of the delivery process. 

On Wednesday, Amazon moved to address the unique needs of fulfillment centers and delivery by launching a $25 million relief fund. The “Amazon Relief Fund” will allow these employees to apply for grants that are equal to or up to two weeks of pay if they’re diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. 

The company also said it will provide up to two weeks of pay to all employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine, effective immediately. This is in addition to unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees through the month of March, which CNBC previously reported

Earlier this week, Amazon told employees at its New York and New Jersey offices to work from home if they can until the end of the month. Last week, Amazon told employees at its offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Seattle area to work from home if they can until the end of the month. The announcement came after an employee in one of its Seattle offices tested positive for COVID-19.