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Staff File Photo / This aerial photo shows the Amazon distribution center at Enterprise South industrial park in Chattanooga.

As major Chattanooga employers report positive cases of COVID-19, companies say they're taking a wide range of steps, and spending money, to focus on worker safety.

Online giant Amazon said Friday that an employee at its Chattanooga distribution center at Enterprise South industrial park has tested positive for COVID-19.

"We are supporting the individual who is recovering," said company spokeswoman Ali Hutchins. "Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees."

Hutchins said Amazon expects to invest companywide about $4 billion from April to June on coronavirus-related initiatives to get products to customers and keep employees safe.

"This includes spending more than $800 million in the first half of the year on COVID-19 safety measures, with investments in personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning of our facilities, less efficient process paths that better allow for effective social distancing, higher wages for hourly teams, and developing our own COVID-19 testing capabilities ... ," she said.

Amazon employs more than 3,000 people at distribution centers in Chattanooga and Charleston, Tennessee.

Amazon said it shares information with all employees when a confirmed case occurs in one of its buildings and communicates to all individuals who work at that site and not just to those who've come in close contact with the diagnosed individual.

The company said it alerts any associate who had close contact with a confirmed case and asks them to not return to the site and to self-quarantine for 14 days, and Amazon pays them for their time at home.

Meanwhile, JBS USA, the majority shareholder in Pilgrim's Pride, on Friday reported that it's investing more than $200 million to support employees and communities in North America.

Earlier this week, the Hamilton County Health Department reported that Pilgrim's Pride has four cases of COVID-19. The company operates a pair of chicken processing plants in downtown Chattanooga employing more than 1,200 people.

JBS said it has already invested more than $100 million to enhance safeguards for its workforce and more than $50 million to reward employees with "thank-you bonuses."

Also, the company said it will invest more than $50 million in communities where employees live and work.

That money will include donations to alleviate food insecurity, strengthen long-term community infrastructure and well-being, and support coronavirus emergency response and relief efforts, the company said.

"Since the arrival of the global coronavirus pandemic, our priority has been and remains the safety of our team members providing food for all of us," said Andre Nogueira, chief executive of JBS USA.

In addition, officials at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant said they've taken some 90 measures amid the coronavirus outbreak as VW earlier this week restarted production at its factory that employs 3,800 people.

On Friday, the plant reported a second coronavirus incident at its facility.

The company said an employee reported mild, flu-like symptoms on Saturday, May 16, while a contractor reported flu-like symptoms on Monday, May 18. Neither of the individuals had entered the plant since Friday, May 15, prior to the production restart on Sunday, according to VW.

The company said that all CDC protocols were followed in rapid-response, and areas that may have been exposed to the affected individuals received an additional deep cleaning and disinfecting. Both individuals reported positive for COVID-19 and are on medical leave in quarantine for the recommended 14 days, the company said.

Also last week, a contractor for VW who was assigned to an isolated area of the factory, which was then closed except for limited maintenance activities, was exposed to coronavirus and tested positive, the company earlier said. VW said two individuals who carpool to work also tested positive.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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