CORONAVIRUS

Grocery Clerk's Family Hopes Her Death Ups Protections For Supermarket Staff

Leilani Jordan, a 27-year-old with cerebral palsy, died after being infected by the coronavirus. She'd worked at a Giant Food in Maryland for six years.

The family of a grocery store employee who died of COVID-19 hopes her death will prompt supermarkets and other companies to provide better protection for essential staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Leilani Jordan, 27, of Largo, Maryland died on April 1. She had been employed by a Giant Food supermarket for six years. 

Jordan’s mother, Zenobia Shepherd, has been speaking out about her daughter’s death in a series of emotional interviews this week. She said Jordan, who had cerebral palsy, insisted on going to work during the outbreak because she “wanted to help.” 

“It wasn’t the job. It wasn’t the money. It was her heart,” Shepherd told ABC. “It was helping people. Loving people. Making a difference. But at the same time she was a vulnerable class, just like the seniors.”

Jordan began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms shortly after March 16, her last day at work. Though it’s unclear where she was infected with the coronavirus, her health took a turn for the worse by month’s end.  

When Shepherd drove Jordan to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, she said her daughter “had a 104-degree fever” and “collapsed in the parking lot.” 

Jordan’s brother, Cedrick, told Fox 5 his sister’s symptoms were initially mild, prompting his family to believe she’d make a full recovery. 

“It was so fast,” he said. “And I speak to my sister every day. When she was admitted, she was challenged, she was struggling with her respiratory health, and I could tell. But it did not seem as severe as what it ended up being. And it just escalated so fast.”

Jordan’s final paycheck, Shepherd said, totaled about $20. Ultimately, she hopes her daughter’s passing will remind others of the sacrifices supermarket employees are making during the global pandemic.

“You have people that are out here doing the job to help to run our country,” she told ABC. “I don’t care what they do. They’re there to support us. They’re there to keep the bananas on the shelf. They’re there to keep the fish and the chicken on the shelves.”

“If you can’t protect them, then you have just allowed us to be vulnerable,” she added. 

A spokesperson for Giant Food acknowledged Jordan’s death in a statement this week. 

“We can only imagine the heartache they are experiencing and have offered our support during this difficult time,” the statement read, according to Fox 5. “We have also shared the news with our team at that location and are providing counseling resources through our Employee Assistance Program.”

Adding that the store had “taken appropriate actions to keep our associates and our customers safe,” the statement concluded, “We encourage our associates and customers to continue taking steps to prevent the spread of any germs and to follow the recommendations from the CDC, including regular handwashing, social distancing and staying home when sick.” 


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