Two workers at a Chicago-area Walmart store have died from the novel coronavirus, the company confirmed Sunday.
“We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store, and we are mourning along with their families,” an emailed statement from the company reads.
Walmart in its statement did not provide the workers’ names, ages or how long they had been with the company. It is also unclear exactly when the two workers passed away.
The two associates had not been in the Evergreen Park store “for more than a week,” according to the company. Experts say people infected with the novel coronavirus typically develop symptoms within about five days after infection, though it can be up to two weeks.
Walmart said it has implemented various cleaning, sanitizing and health measures in the store, including bringing in an outside company to clean “high-touch” areas of the store, such as front entrances, carts, registers, bathrooms and food areas including produce and meat. The company said that within the past week, it passed “a third-party safety and environmental compliance assessment as well as a health department inspection.”
Workers at grocery stores and warehouses deemed “essential businesses” amid the Covid-19 outbreak have expressed concern that showing up to work puts them at risk of contracting the disease. In recent days, a number of retailers have said they will provide workers with masks, but sourcing such protective equipment has proved difficult as hospitals and health workers also struggle to get their hands on such gear.
Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, has waited to secure protective gear to avoid limiting equipment that could go to strained health workers, Dan Bartlett, the company’s vice president of corporate affairs, told reporters. The company will need more than seven million masks each week for its employees, he said. The first shipment will arrive in one to two weeks.
Walmart on Friday announced several additional steps it is implementing in an effort to lower the risk of spread in its stores.
The company is reducing the number of customers that can enter stores at one time, using floor markers to enforce social distancing and establishing designated entrance and exit doors. Walmart previously announced measures including paid leave for workers amid the coronavirus outbreak, employee temperature checks and limited store hours to allow for cleaning and restocking.