At least 81 employees at a Walmart Supercenter in Worcester, Mass. have tested positive for COVID-19, according to officials.
The outpost shut down on Wednesday after 23 employees were confirmed to have contracted the novel coronavirus. The 81 infected workers include store associates as well as employees from other companies in the building. Local officials said that workers and customers were not wearing proper personal protective equipment. The city ordered the store to be closed for professional cleaning and mandated that all 400-plus employees be tested for COVID-19.
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In an email to FN, Walmart said that a third-party specialist is sanitizing the store, and that it is continuing to monitor local stores to keep employees and shoppers safe.
“We’d like to thank the City of Worcester, the department of public health and its medical director, as well as the team at UMass Memorial Hospital for their partnership these last few days. Our focus is on giving our associates the time they need through our COVID-19 paid leave policy so they can take the time they need to get well,” the company stated. “We will continue working with local officials, taking the steps needed in addition to the extensive measures we have in place, to help ensure the safety and well-being of our associates and customers before we reopen the store.”
In recent weeks, Walmart has received some backlash for perceived inadequate COVID-19-related precautions. In April, four United States senators — Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown and Richard Blumenthal — penned a letter urging the chain to improve safety for its front-line workers following reports that several employees have died of the coronavirus. Further, a wrongful death suit — alleging that the company failed to implement proper health and safety standards to protect its workforce — has been filed in Illinois by the family of a Walmart store worker who died after contracting COVID-19.
Across all Walmart and Sam’s Club locations, the company said employees are required to wear masks and that it is checking their temperatures. The chain has also announced that it has reduced store hours to allow for increased cleaning and restocking and installed social distance markers and sneeze guards within stores. In addition, it has reduced the capacity of its outposts to about 20%. When the Worcester Walmart reopens, the city is mandating that all employees wear both masks and gloves; additionally, all customers will be required to wear masks.