An employee at the Kroger Distribution Center in Columbus, Ohio has tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. The employee was just one of several cases of a positive test among workers for the supermarket chain. In Michigan, Kroger representatives said four employees at stores in the Detroit area have died.
Kroger spokesperson Amy McCormick told WCMH an associate at the distribution center told managers they tested positive for the coronavirus. "We are supporting them and wish them all the best. Upon learning of this case, we followed all sanitation and cleaning procedures as recommended by the CDC, communicated with and supported our team," McCormick said on Friday. She added that the company will keep following guidance from local, state and federal agencies to protect employees.
On April 11, MLive reported four Kroger employees at different Detroit-area stores died. "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of four Kroger family members who worked at our stores in Northville (425 North Center St.), Troy (3125 John Road), Grosse Pointe (16919 Kercheval Ave.), and Livonia (30935 5 Mile Road), Michigan," Kroger Co. of Michigan President Ken DeLuca told the outlet. "We are mourning along with their families during this extraordinarily difficult time."
Three employees at Kroger locations in the Cincinnati area also tested positive for the coronavirus on April 3, reports CityBeat. The employees were put on two-week paid sick leave, according to their union. On Wednesday, Kroger confirmed 13 employees tested positive at stores in their Louisville, Kentucky division, reports WFPL.
As more cases of coronavirus among supermarket employees continue to be reported, the concerns for their safety has also grown. On Thursday, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFFCW), which represents Kroger employees, asked Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to put more limits on the number of shoppers who can be in a store at one time. Kroger already limited the number of shoppers to one person per 120 square feet, but the union wants DeWine to cut capacity to 20%. They also want DeWine to make it mandatory for workers to wear masks during their shifts.
"If we don't act immediately to keep these essential workers and their customers safe, many lives and our food supply will be in grave danger," UFCW Local 75 president Kevin Garvey said in a statement to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, and food production plants are risking everything to ensure our communities can endure this crisis." The union reproted 30 members have died from COVID-19.
Kroger has made several changes to protect workers and customers. Starting April 7, the company started capping store capacity at 50 percent and began installing protective barriers at cash registers and pharmacy counters. The earliest hours of operation have also been set aside for the most at-risk customers. Employees are also receiving $2 above their standard pay rate through May 2.