Instacart has quietly begun sending messages to some of its workers saying they may’ve been exposed to COVID-19 while on a delivery. The move is to let those workers know where the exposure happened and what it’s doing to support them.
The company has confirmed at least one incident, which happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Instacart said it was notified by its grocery store partner there that one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we immediately communicated with the Instacart in-store shoppers who worked at the same location as this individual to ensure they had real-time details about the situation unfolding at their store,” an Instacart spokeswoman said. “To the best of our knowledge, no Instacart shopper came into contact with this individual.”
Instacart says it’s providing up to two weeks paid sick leave to shoppers, company parlance for delivery workers, who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are mandated to quarantine by a doctor. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has now infected more than 800,000 people and killed nearly 40,000 worldwide.
Instacart has 150,000 shoppers in the US and Canada and since the coronavirus has swept the region — with shelter-in-place mandates in many major cities — it’s seen a massive boost in business. The company said it’s had unprecedented customer demand and its order volume has grown by more than 150%. Last week the company announced it was recruiting 300,000 more shoppers over the next three months to meet that demand.
But, many Instacart workers say the company isn’t doing enough to protect them from COVID-19. On Monday, thousands of workersdemanding things like hazard pay and safety equipment. They also want the company to provide workers who are vulnerable to the virus with sick leave.
While the company met some of the workers’ demands, such as providing hand sanitizer, it didn’t address hazard pay or the vulnerable workers. Some Instacart shoppers also say that even though they have a doctor’s letter saying to self-quarantine, they’refrom the company.
One worker who was contacted by Instacart about being exposed to COVID-19 detailed what happened to Gig Workers Collective, which advocates on behalf of Instacart workers.
“We understand this has significant impact on you,” Instacart wrote to the worker. “And want to make sure we provide support for you during this time.”
The store, Star Market, confirmed to CNET that an employee did test positive for COVID-19. That person is now on medical leave.
“Given the unprecedented nature of the virus and its rate of spread, some might say it would only be a matter of time before Instacart and companies like it would have to face this scenario,” Gig Workers Collective wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. “They are clearly comfortable playing Russian Roulette with not only workers’ lives, but potentially with customers’ lives as well.”