Publix, Aldi, other grocery stores see increase in employees testing positive for COVID-19
As coronavirus cases spike throughout the state, the number of employees at several Southwest Florida grocery chains that are testing positive is also on the rise.
Florida has been recording record daily case numbers in recent weeks, pushing the total to over 200,000 for the first time after an additional 10,059 were reported on Sunday.
Amid these sharp increases, grocery store workers continue to brave crowds in busy stores.
Publix, Aldi, Whole Foods, Sprouts report increased cases among area employees
One of Florida's largest grocery chains, Publix, now has 36 locations in Lee and Collier counties with employees who have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic's onset.
The News-Press inquired previously about employee cases at Publix in early June and requested information regarding over 50 Southwest Florida locations. At that time, 20 stores had at least one employee test positive for the virus.
When asked again about the same locations for this article, Publix confirmed that 16 more locations have had an employee test positive.
Of those locations, 18 had an employee who tested positive within the last 14 days. These locations are: 2450 Vanderbilt Beach Road in Naples; 2310 Pine Ridge Road in Naples; 5991 Pine Ridge Road in Naples; 1981 Tamiami Trail North in Naples; 12975 Collier Blvd., Suite 200, in Naples; 12900 Trade Way Four in Bonita Springs; 4860 Davis Blvd. in Naples; 26841 South Tamiami Trail in Bonita Springs; 24600 South Tamiami Trail, Suite 300, in Bonita Springs; 21301 South Tamiami Trial, Suite 200, in Estero; 20311 Grande Oak Shoppes Blvd. in Estero; 5997 South Pointe Blvd., Suite 106, in Fort Myers; 15880 Summerlin Road in Fort Myers; 11600 Gladiolus Drive in Fort Myers; 11851 Palm Beach Blvd. in Fort Myers; 17960 North Tamiami Trail in North Fort Myers; 3015 Southwest Pine Island Road in Cape Coral; and 6700 Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers.
The other 18 locations have had an employee test positive but not within the last 14 days. These locations include: 4370 Thomasson Drive in Naples; 8585 Collier Blvd. in Naples; 12663 Tamiami Trail East in Naples; 13550 Immokalee Road in Naples; 8833 Tamiami Trail North in Naples; 11200 Tamiami Trail North, #2200, in Naples; 5624 Strand Blvd. in Naples; 15265 Collier Blvd. in Naples; 3304 Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs; 20321 Summerlin Road in Fort Myers; 16950 San Carlos Blvd. in Fort Myers; 13650 Fiddlesticks Blvd. in Fort Myers; 7950 Dani Drive, #200, in Fort Myers; 6900 Daniels Parkway, Suite 19, in Fort Myers; 13121 Paul J. Doherty Parkway in Fort Myers; 2420 Santa Barbara Blvd. in Cape Coral; 1616 Cape Coral Parkway West, #5, in Cape Coral; and 5781 Lee Blvd. in Lehigh Acres.
Other grocery chains have seen rising cases as well.
Whole Foods spokesperson Spencer Taylor confirmed that employees at the chain's two locations in Lee and Collier counties have tested positive for virus. The stores are located at 9101 Strada Place in Naples and 6891 Daniels Parkway, Suite 100, in Fort Myers.
The News-Press contacted Whole Foods in early June and was told at that time that no employees at either location had tested positive.
Taylor said in an emailed statement that Whole Foods could not share further details regarding the cases out of respect for privacy of the individuals. Whole Foods is "supporting the diagnosed individuals, who are in quarantine," according to the statement.
Taylor also said that both stores have undergone a "deep cleaning and disinfection, on top of our current enhanced sanitation measures."
Among the nine Aldi store locations in Lee and Collier, the locations at 6171 Naples Blvd. in Naples and 1481 Southwest Pine Island Road in Cape Coral have employees who have tested positive. Between these stores, three employees have tested positive, according to a company statement.
"All of the employees that have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past two weeks are in quarantine and on paid leave, and we are doing everything we can to ensure they receive the attention they need," the statement read.
Grocery chain Sprouts has been posting updated information regarding employee coronavirus cases on its website throughout the pandemic. The grocery chain's Estero store at 19990 South Tamiami Trail, which just opened in early June, has an employee who tested positive for the virus. The employee was last in the store on June 17, according to the page.
At the four Fresh Market locations in Lee and Collier, no employee has tested positive for the virus, according to company spokesperson Meghan Flynn.
She added in an emailed statement that the stores have now instituted team member wellness checks before the start of every shift in addition to policies such as mandatory face coverings, social distancing and frequent hand washing.
Not all stores are openly reporting their employee cases.
Walmart, for example, is choosing not to disclose employee cases when asked.
"It is still our practice to leave COVID-19 confirmations up to the local health officials out of respect and privacy for our associates’ personal health information," said Walmart spokesperson Casey Staheli in an emailed statement.
Staheli went on to state that the stores are being regularly cleaned and sanitized and that if an employee does end up testing positive for the virus, Walmart will work with those employees to offer "guidance and time needed to receive medical care."
Similarity, Target declined to provide information regarding specific cases when asked about Lee and Collier store locations.
When the company learns of a positive cases, "we work quickly to deep clean and sanitize the facility, which is the recommendation of public health experts," according to a Target statement.
Reach Andrew Wigdor at email@example.com and on Twitter @andrew_wigdor