Walmart on Saturday began limiting the number of people allowed in its stores at one time after two employees at one of its Chicago-area stores died after contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“We have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people,” Walmart’s executive vice president and chief operating officer Dacona Smith said in a Friday blog post. “We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop.”
Additional safety measures being enforced at stores include one-way shopping aisles, to help distance customers from one another.
The company’s changes were implemented the same day that it confirmed the deaths of two employees who worked at a store in Evergreen Park, Illinois.
The company said neither of the employees had been at the store in more than a week, though it did not say when they began showing signs of the illness. The store has remained open as additional cleaning measures are put in place, including cleaning by a third-party, the company said.
The two employees were identified as aged 48 and 51. Both had underlying medical conditions, with one of them having had diabetes and the other having been obese, The Chicago Tribute reported citing the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton briefly suspended the store’s liquor license on Friday after learning of the deaths. After meeting with Walmart’s corporate office, he reinstated it, telling the Evergreen Park Patch: “We believe Walmart has taken good corrective action.”
Walmart’s actions haven’t entirely pacified public concerns, however.
The Facebook page for the Evergreen Park store has been filled with users expressing concern over other employees who had been in contact with the two workers being potentially infected with the virus and still reporting to work while not showing symptoms.
A Walmart representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on these concerns.
Walmart last week said it would begin taking employees’ temperatures when they report to work and turn away those with fevers. The thermometers to be used are expected to take up to three weeks to arrive at stores, the company said in making the announcement. The company also said it would provide gloves and masks to employees upon request.
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