Fourth SoCal Whole Foods Worker Tests Positive For Coronavirus

SANTA MONICA, CA — Another Whole Foods Market worker in Santa Monica has tested positive for the coronavirus — the fourth employee at one of the grocery chain’s smallest locations in the U.S. to test positive in the last several months.

The worker is in quarantine and apparently did not get sick at the store, according to an employee at the 1425 Montana Ave. location who spoke with Patch.

Employees have complained that the location is small and makes it difficult to socially distance between customers and workers. The store is so small that the employees have a separate break room off-site, in an area separate from the store.

Essential workers have faced some of the greatest risk throughout the pandemic. Whole Foods workers are Amazon employees and have no union representation. Patch reached out to CAL/OSHA for more information about this location.

Patch reached out to Whole Foods Market for a statement of how it is responding to the ongoing cases, with the most recent known and disclosed case in July.

“We have had positive COVID-19 cases in this location since the start of the pandemic, but are not able to share details out of respect for the privacy of our team members,” a Whole Foods Market spokesperson told Patch.

Employees at this Whole Foods location receive text message alerts when a team member tests positive for the coronavirus.

Store officials report the location has had “a professional deep cleaning and disinfection since the last diagnosis of COVID-19 in this location. Not sure where you received the info that this store is the smallest in the company, but that’s not verified,” the spokesperson said.

Patch asked this spokesperson, who is in Texas, whether they have visited the location. It appears they have not.

Whole Foods continues to release the following statement to Patch:

“The safety of our Team Members and customers is our top priority and we are diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities. We’ve been working closely with our store Team Members, and are supporting the diagnosed Team Member, who is in quarantine. Out of an abundance of caution, the store has performed a professional deep cleaning and disinfection, on top of our current enhanced sanitation measures. All Whole Foods Market stores continue to operate under social distancing and crowd control measures. Additionally, we have installed plexiglass barriers at check out, are requiring temperature checks and face masks for anyone working in our stores, and have implemented enhanced daily cleanliness and disinfection protocols in all of our stores.”

“Any time we learn of a presumed or confirmed diagnosis in any of our stores or facilities, we activate a set plan to protect the privacy of the impacted person while also mitigating any potential risks to our Team Members and customers. That plan includes comprehensive cleaning, contact tracing and a formal notification processes for those working in our stores. There is no higher priority for us than ensuring the health and safety of our Team Members and customers.”

Five Ralphs grocery stores were fined last week for health and safety violations during the coronavirus pandemic. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued the citations, which total $104,500 across the five grocery stores in Los Angeles and Culver City.

The Hollywood Ralphs on Sunset Boulevard, frequently known as the Rock and Roll Ralphs, was among the five stores cited. At least 21 employees at the store tested positive for the coronavirus in May.

Two Ralphs in Culver City and Sherman Oaks also received citations. In May, the grocery chain announced that one worker from each store died in a hospital after contracting the coronavirus. Cal/OSHA said both stores failed to report the workers’ illnesses.

In May an employee at a Pasadena Whole Foods died from COVID-19.

Nearly 40,000 grocery stores in the U.S. are still operating throughout the pandemic as essential businesses under social distancing guidelines; however, grocery stores are not required to release information about the number of coronavirus cases or deaths, according to The Washington Post.

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This article originally appeared on the Santa Monica Patch

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