UPDATED 19:51 EDT / MARCH 22 2020

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Jeff Bezos tells Amazon staff grappling with pandemic: ‘People are depending on us’

Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has told company employees that “people are depending on us” as it scrambles to keep up with deliveries to customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bezos (pictured), in his letter shared Saturday with employees via his personal Instagram account, also outlined the steps the company is taking to keep its workers safe. He encouraged those who have already lost their jobs during the outbreak to consider working for the retail giant.

“Across the world, people are feeling the economic effects of the crisis, and I’m sad to tell you I predict things are going to get worse before they get better,” the founder wrote.

Businesses around the world are currently grappling with closures that have been put in place to try and stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 417 people in the U.S. as of Sunday. There are more than 14,000 total deaths around the world and more than 335,000 cases.

Washington state, Amazon’s headquarters, is one of the hardest-hit in the U.S. with 94 deaths, ahead of New York and California. Amazon has also seen its supply chain interrupted after being forced to close down a warehouse in Queens, New York, after one of its workers there tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Bezos told employees in his memo that Amazon was taking special measures to step up the intensity of cleaning and to ensure that all workers at its fulfillment centers respect social distancing.

The CEO also talked about the company’s struggle to obtain enough face masks for employees who can’t work remotely. According to Bezos, Amazon has ordered “millions” of them, but has so far been unable to take delivery. That’s because orders are being prioritized for where they’re most needed, such as at hospitals.

“Masks remain in short supply globally and are at this point being directed by governments to the highest-need facilities like hospitals and clinics,” Bezos wrote. “It’s easy to understand why the incredible medical providers serving our communities need to be first in line. When our turn for masks comes, our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working to get essential products to people.”

Bezos added that Amazon is looking to take on about 100,000 temporary workers to help keep up with deliveries during the crisis.

“My own time and thinking is now wholly focused on COVID-19 and how Amazon can best play its role,” Bezos wrote. “I want you to know Amazon will continue to do its part, and we won’t stop looking for new opportunities to help.”

Bezos wasn’t the only major tech CEO to reiterate to employees the important role they’re playing during the coronavirus pandemic. Microsoft Corp.’s Satya Nadella also took time out to write to workers over the weekend, thanking them for their hard work in an email that was published on LinkedIn Saturday.

“Much is unknown, and I know how unsettling and uncertain this feels,” Nadella wrote. “Like many of you, there have been times over the past weeks where it has felt overwhelming and all-encompassing for me. I worry about the health and safety of my family, my co-workers, and friends. My wife and I worry for her aging parents, who are far away from us in India. I see the struggle in our local community, and around the world, the empty streets and restaurants, and I wonder when our social fabric will be restored.”

Nadella also outlined some of the ways Microsoft is helping to fight and distribute information the pandemic, noting efforts such as the company’s Bing COVID-19 tracker and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthcare Bot.

The CEO said software is the “most malleable tool ever created” and that it has a huge role to play as people struggle to get on with their lives during the outbreak.

“Our unique role as a platform and tools provider allows us to connect the dots, bring together an ecosystem of partners, and enable organizations of all sizes to build the digital capability required to address these challenges,” he said.

Photo: Robert Hof/SiliconANGLE

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