Jeff Bezos is the latest high-profile executive to say that universal testing for the coronavirus is key to jump-starting the economy.
In a letter to shareholders filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday (April 16), the Amazon CEO said testing on a global scale would help keep people safe and get the economy back up and running.
“For this to work, we as a society would need vastly more testing capacity than is currently available,” he wrote.
The Seattle-based founder of the world’s biggest eCommerce company said he is considering testing employees, even those without symptoms, on a regular basis. Amazon has assembled a team of research scientists, program managers, procurement specialists and software engineers who have begun building testing capacity, he noted.
“We have begun assembling the equipment we need to build our first lab and hope to start testing small numbers of our frontline employees soon,” the letter said. “We are not sure how far we will get in the relevant timeframe, but we think it’s worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn.”
In the meantime, Bezos said Amazon has taken steps to keep its workforce safe by providing employees with face masks.
According to the SEC filing, at the close of last year, Amazon had 798,000 employees as of Dec. 31. Since then, the company has hired 100,000 more workers, with plans to add another 75,000.
In addition to providing essential services that have become crucial as the coronavirus has made shopping in stores more challenging, Bezos said the company has adjusted its internal operations, as well as the protocol at its Whole Foods stores, to keep staff healthy.
“Working with medical experts and health authorities, we’ve distributed face masks…” Bezos said. “We’ve also introduced extensive social distancing measures to help protect our associates.”
Earlier this week, James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said the crippled economy could quickly rebound if everyone gets tested for the virus. “Widespread testing of everybody in the economy would put an end to this crisis,” he said. “We can’t get there right now, but this is costing us $25 billion a day.”