SEATTLE — In his 2019 letter to shareholders, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said that "vastly" increasing coronavirus testing capacity would "help get the economy back up and running."
"If every person could be tested regularly, it would make a huge difference in how we fight this virus," Bezos wrote. "Those who test positive could be quarantined and cared for, and everyone who tests negative could re-enter the economy with confidence."
Amazon recently assembled a team to start building out its own testing capacity. According to Bezos' letter, the company is assembling equipment to build its first lab in the hopes of testing "frontline employees."
The company has already taken several measures to protect its employees, including distributing face masks, establishing social distancing procedures, and at the end of March, it started routine temperatures checks.
Meanwhile, millions of people are facing unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic as layoffs continue.
Roughly 22 million have now sought unemployment benefits in the past month across the U.S., easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record.
All businesses deemed non-essential have been closed in nearly every state. Some economists say the unemployment rate could reach as high as 20% in April, which would be the highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unemployment never topped 10% during the Great Recession.
Layoffs are spreading beyond service industries like hotels, bars, and restaurants, which absorbed the brunt of the initial job cuts, into white-collar professional occupations.
Up to 50 million jobs are vulnerable to coronavirus-related layoffs, economists say, about one-third of all positions in the United States. That figure is based on a calculation of jobs that are deemed non-essential by state and federal governments and that cannot be done from home.