As Amazon grapples with the best way to meet the surging consumer demand caused by social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, it’s now limiting new customers to its Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery services.
The company is also developing a coronavirus testing site for its employees.
New Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market delivery and pickup customers can request an invitation for the services and will be notified when they can shop.
Amazon said it will invite new customers to shop each week.
An upcoming feature for Fresh and Whole Foods deliveries, meanwhile, will let established customers secure a virtual spot in line, which they can then use to select a delivery window as Amazon distributes them on a first-come, first-served basis.
The company said it has increased Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh order capacity by more than 60% due to COVID-19 and will continue to add more.
The number of Whole Foods Market grocery pickup sites has grown to over 150 in the last few weeks, up from around 80 stores, and the company is working to further expand them.
Its Woodland Hills, CA, store is currently serving as a temporary online-only store that's focused solely on fulfilling grocery delivery orders. Select Whole Foods have had their operating hours adjusted so employees can focus on fulfilling online grocery orders.
Separately, a select number of Amazon employees — including research scientists, program managers, procurement specialists and software engineers — are now part of a dedicated team to create a coronavirus testing site, and the company hopes to start testing front-line employees soon.
“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 with others,” it notes in a company blog.
As e-commerce consumer demand has rapidly escalated as a result of the health crisis, Amazon has come under fire for not properly protecting its front-line employees. The company has been ramping up its efforts by distributing PPE and conducting temperature checks.
Amazon has hired 100,000 full- and part-time employees since March 16, and the company intends to create an additional 75,000 jobs to meet consumer demand.
It’s also investing more in wage increases, now expecting to spend more than $500 million vs. the previous estimate of $350 million.