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Warehouse Workers in a Bind as Virus Spikes in Southern California

  • July 09, 2020

Coronavirus infections across the state have hit alarming new highs in recent days — Riverside County recorded its largest single-day increase on Tuesday, with 974 cases. The spike comes as Americans continue to rely on e-commerce giants to deliver their necessities as the pandemic drags on. That means the need for people to sort, package, ship and deliver goods has grown, along with demand for the warehouses and fulfillment centers where that work can be done.

The logistics industry has exploded in communities across the country in recent years, but nowhere more visibly than in the Inland Empire.

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Over the last decade, warehouses have brought tens of thousands of jobs to this area where the Recession-era unemployment rate peaked at 14.4 percent in July 2010. By December last year, it was down to 3.5 percent in the Riverside-San Bernardino area — a turnaround many leaders have tied directly to the influx.

But the region’s economic successes have also come with costs.

Warehouse workers are more likely to toil in dangerous conditions that put them at greater risk of infection. A recent report from the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that, nationwide, Latino and Black workers were far overrepresented in warehouse jobs.

Consistent demographic data about Covid-19 cases has been difficult to compile, but in Riverside County, the rate of confirmed cases among Hispanic or Latino residents is two and a half the rate of cases among white people, according to the public health department. Statewide, Black people accounted for 9.1 percent of Covid-19 deaths, but roughly 6 percent of the population.

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