Major supermarkets chains are beginning to report their first coronavirus-related employee deaths, leading to store closures and increasing anxiety among grocery shoppers as the outbreak intensifies across America.
A Trader Joe’s worker in Scarsdale, New York; a greeter at a Giant store in Largo, Maryland; and two Walmart employees from the same Chicago-area store have died of COVID-19 in recent days, the companies confirmed Monday.
Though 90% of the United States have ordered nonessential businesses to close and told residents to stay home to stem the spread of the virus, supermarkets are among the retailers that remain open.
Thousands of grocery employees have continued to report to work, reporting long shifts and extra workloads to keep up with the spiking demand, as U.S. infections and death rates continue to climb.
Many workers say they don’t have enough protective gear to deal with hundreds of customers a day.
Dozens of grocery workers have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks.
Grocery retailers such as Walmart and Kroger have been rapidly hiring thousands of temporary employees, offering an extra $2 an hour and promising masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
But according to supermarket analyst Phil Lempert, finding workers willing to work on the front lines for little more than the minimum wage could be an increasingly tough sell.
Some stores, like the Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were temporarily closed for additional cleaning and sanitizing.
Walmart has hired an outside company to sanitize “high-touch” areas, such as front entrances, carts, cash registers, and restrooms.
It has also begun checking employees’ temperatures at the beginning of each shift.
Both Walmart and Kroger have limited the number of shoppers entering the store and have discouraged families going together to shop.