AUBURN – During a training session Wednesday at TD Bank’s call center at the Auburn Mall, five workers came down with “cold or flu-like symptoms and were sent home,” the company said Friday.

What made them sick is unknown, but 38 employees were asked this week to self-quarantine for at least 14 days because of the risk they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Matthew Doherty, corporate communications manager, said the workers who were sent home, including two on Friday who could not be reached sooner, were participating in the training session.

He said they were sent home, based on the recommendation of the company’s chief medical director, “to protect the health and well-being of our colleagues” at the center.

One employee, who asked to remain unidentified, said it is “a petri dish” for the coronavirus to spread because of the large number of people in one room sharing desks day and night.

Call centers across the country are facing a growing number of complaints by scared workers.

Paul Stockford, a Tennessee-based research director for the nonprofit National Association of Call Centers, said this week that call center employees have a “pretty high risk” of exposure.

TD Bank’s Auburn call center has many cubicles in a large room, each with a desk, a phone and a computer. At its busiest times, they said, the center has at least 250 workers in a large room.

Doherty said the bank is “working to address the needs and concerns of our employees.”

It is also, he said, “deploying plans at the call center to maintain social distancing as much as possible” and directing employees who can work remotely to do so.

The bank is also “working on plans to increase work-from-home capabilities,” Doherty said.

Workers who were sent home and cannot work remotely, he said, will receive up to two weeks of pay so they don’t have to dip into their personal paid-time-off benefits.

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