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MS tells employees to work from home amid coronavirus fears

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Software giant Microsoft has asked employees in the Seattle area and Silicon Valley to work from home until 25 March, as the coronavirus continues to spread in the US.

The first confirmed case of the global outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the US was announced on 21 January.

As of 4 March, there were 158 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the US, including 11 deaths.

Across the globe, there are more than 93 000 cases of the deadly coronavirus reported, with the majority in China.

Microsoft joins a number of US tech companies that are asking staff members to work from home as the coronavirus spreads.

These include Twitter, Square, JPMorgan and Google, with the latter asking workers at its Dublin, Ireland, offices to stay home after a coronavirus case was reported there.

Now, Microsoft is responding to cases near its Seattle headquarters and in California.

In a blog post, Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s executive vice-president, told employees: “Consistent with King County guidance, we are recommending all employees who are in a job that can be done from home should do so through 25 March.

“Taking these measures will ensure your safety and also make the workplace safer for those that need to be onsite. Please let your manager know that you will be working from home, so all our teams remain well coordinated.

“If in your role it is essential to be in the office or other work environments (eg, data centre, retail, etc), plan to continue to go to your location. We will continue to implement the CDC [Centres for Disease Control] guidelines for cleaning and sanitising the locations. If you are not sure whether you are in a role that requires you to be onsite, you should speak to your manager,” says DelBene.

Meanwhile, CNBC reports that Amazon on Tuesday said an employee who works in one of its Seattle, Washington, offices tested positive for the coronavirus.

It says Amazon notified employees of the update in a memo, saying: “The employee went home feeling unwell on Tuesday, February 25, and has not entered Amazon offices since that time.

“We notified the employees who we know were in close contact with this employee,” the memo continues. “The risk of transmission for employees who were not in close contact with this individual is assessed to be low.”

The report says Amazon asked employees who are experiencing symptoms to stay home and seek medical attention.

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