Amazon told its corporate employees working from home since early March that they “are welcome to do so until at least October 2,” raising the prospect that one of Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods could be largely deserted for another five months.

The extension of the work-from-home guidance applies to “employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home,” according to a message the company sent employees Thursday, portions of which were viewed by The Seattle Times.

A company spokesperson confirmed the extension, adding, “We are working hard and investing significant funds to keep those who choose to come to the office safe through physical distancing, deep cleaning, temperature checks, and the availability of face coverings and hand sanitizer.”

On March 4, as the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic was dawning on the region, Amazon joined other large Seattle-area employers in recommending that employees work from home.

The company had confirmed its first COVID-19-positive corporate employee in one of its South Lake Union buildings the day before.

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While the economic fallout from the pandemic is severe across the economy, restaurants and shops that catered to the company’s tens of thousands of programmers, engineers and corporate staff in Seattle and Bellevue were among the first to see their business evaporate.

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Amazon has taken steps to support small businesses surrounding its South Lake Union and Bellevue offices, providing $10 million in grants and rent relief to more than 800 small businesses, it said as part of its quarterly earnings announcement Thursday. A company spokesperson had no updates on the disposition of these programs going forward.

The company had also pledged to continue paying contracting companies who employ some 10,000 people to clean, secure and staff reception desks at its corporate offices during the work-from-home period. The spokesperson said Thursday it will continue paying for that work.

Amazon chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that, “by and large, I believe, we’ve been able to make progress even with our work-from-home situation with office staff.”

He said some specific activities, such as video production at Amazon Studios, and development of new hardware device features, has “slowed down by not being in the office.”

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