Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is working on its own COVID-19 diagnostic test with an eye toward eventually testing its entire workforce.
In the company's annual letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said a team of Amazon research scientists, procurement specialists, and software engineers have been taken from their day jobs at the eCommerce company and are now focused on creating a test for the virus that's infected more than 640,000 people in the U.S.
"A next step in protecting our employees might be regular testing of all Amazonians, including those showing no symptoms," wrote Bezos. "If every person could be tested regularly, it would make a huge difference in how we fight this virus. Those who test positive could be quarantined and cared for, and everyone who tests negative could reenter the economy with confidence." For that to work, Bezos argued there needs to be "vastly" more testing capacity than what is available today.
Bezo said Amazon has begun assembling the equipment necessary to build its first lab and hopes to start testing a small number of its employees on the frontlines soon. The Amazon CEO acknowledged it's uncertain how far the tech giant will get in developing its own test and whether it will be in a relevant time frame but said it's worth trying.
Bezo also reiterated what the online retailer has been doing to keep its employees safe during the pandemic, noting it has made more than 150 process changes. Those include distributing face masks, implementing temperature checks at locations around the world, regularly sanitizing touchpoints in its facilities, and instituting social distancing rules.
Despite all those efforts, Amazon has faced criticism it's not doing enough to keep warehouse and delivery workers safe, which has prompted some workers to protest.