Hour after hour, day after day, the packages keep arriving: food, medicine, clothes, toys and a million other items brought to the doorsteps and building lobbies of Americans who are hunkering down as the coronavirus sweeps the land.
An increasing number of the workers sorting those boxes, loading them into trucks and then transporting and delivering them around the country have fallen sick.
They have coughs, sore throats, aches and fevers — symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. Yet they are still reporting for their shifts in crowded shipping facilities and warehouses and truck depots, fearful of what will happen if they don’t.
“I have been coming in sick because I’m worried that I’ll lose my job or just be punished if I call out,” said Angel Duarte, a package handler at a UPS hub in Tucson, Arizona. “I am 23, and I have no savings, and I have a 4-month-old son.”
UPS, FedEx and XPO Logistics are three of the largest shipping and logistics companies in an industry that collectively delivers about 18 trillion dollars’ worth of goods every year. With millions of Americans now on lockdown, home-delivery orders have soared, and the companies have become among the few power sources keeping the lights on in the darkening U.S. economy. UPS, for example, is one of the main companies that deliver packages for Amazon.
Public health experts said the odds were relatively low that ill warehouse workers or truck drivers would infect the recipients of packages, in part because the virus does not survive on cardboard surfaces for very long.