Update, 2:22 p.m. ET:
In a statement to FN, Walmart said a third-party is cleaning the temporarily shuttered location and that is monitoring “local stores to ensure we are doing everything we can to help keep our customers and associates safe as we navigate providing customers the essential items they need.”
“Now more than ever before, customers are relying on Walmart for the essentials they need for their families, and our associates are doing heroic work serving their communities across the Commonwealth. We’re very proud of all of them,” a Walmart representative told FN. “The Boston area, along with the community of Worcester, is suffering from a high rate of coronavirus cases. Like so many businesses across the region, our stores have felt the impact of the coronavirus.”
What we initially reported:
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A Walmart in Worcester, Mass. has been temporarily shut down by local officials after 23 employees tested positive for the coronavirus over a three-week period.
According to city officials, the local health authority conducted an inspection on Tuesday and discovered that employees and customers either did not have or were not wearing personal protective equipment. The store was initially meant to close on Wednesday but the emergency order was moved up one day. The city of Worcester has ordered the store to be professionally cleaned and for all of its 400 employees to be tested for the virus.
In recent weeks, Walmart has received some backlash for perceived inadequate COVID-19-related precautions. Earlier this month, 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.
At Walmart, all employees are required to wear masks, and the retailer says it is checking their temperatures. The chain has also reduced store hours to allow for increased cleaning and restocking and has installed social distance markers and sneeze guards within its stores. Additionally, it has reduced the capacity of its stores 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.
A representative from Walmart did not immediately respond to comment.