WASHINGTON — Essential businesses, such as, grocery stores are a lifeblood as people living in D.C., Maryland and Virginia are under stay at home orders.
The businesses are some of the few places people can still go and get the things they need.
However, these essential businesses are not required to report positive cases of coronavirus to the public.
The information was revealed after a WUSA9 investigation uncovered several positive cases among Whole Foods employees in the District.
Whole Foods never told shoppers about the positive cases among its employees, and WUSA9 learned the company did not have to.
WUSA9 reached out to D.C. Health, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Maryland Department of Health, and all three agencies confirmed essential businesses are not required by law to tell the public of known positive COVID-19 cases.
Essential businesses in Maryland and Virginia are required to tell the health department of positive cases, and regulations in the District only require healthcare providers to report positive cases to the health department.
According to a VDH spokesperson, "the Code of Virginia 32.1-37 indicates that a 'person in charge of any residential or day program, service or facility licensed or operated by any agency of the Commonwealth' should immediately report suspected outbreaks of disease (including COVID-19) to the local health department."
A MDH spokesperson wrote, "essential establishments are required to report positive cases to their employees and the local health department while maintaining patient confidentiality."
According to Chapter 22-B2 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, "to help prevent and control the spread of communicable diseases in the District, all health care providers are required by law to report certain diseases and conditions to DC Health.”
WUSA9 reached out to Trader Joes, ALDI, Safeway, Giant, Whole Foods, and Shoppers to ask which grocery stores in the DMV had known positive coronavirus cases.
Trader Joes confirmed positive cases at three locations which include Arlington, Reston, and 14th Street. A spokesperson said the stores were closed and deep cleaned. The company posts all temporary closures on its website.
Trader Joe’s enacted wellness checks for its employees and other procedures to keep staff and customers safe, which can be found by clicking here.
ALDI confirmed six of its employees tested positive at six different locations including:
- Store at 6524 Landover Road, Cheverly, Md. 20785
- Store at 7609 New Hampshire Ave., Takoma Park, Md. 20912
- Store at 2223 Bel Pre Road, Silver Spring, Md. 20906
- Store at 6129 Backlick Road, Springfield, Va. 22150
- Store at 4580 Duke Street, Alexandria, Va. 22304
- Distribution Center at 8751 Gas House Pike, Frederick, Md. 21701
A spokesperson for ALDI said in a statement:
"All of the employees are in quarantine and on paid leave and we are doing everything we can to ensure they receive the attention they need.
"We’ve implemented a number of initiatives over the last several weeks to further promote health and safety for both customers and employees. Personal protective equipment is available for our employees to use. Across the country, we have installed signage and floor decals to remind our employees and customers to maintain a safe distance -- at least 6 feet -- from one another. We’ve also installed temporary protective barriers at checkout and are continuously cleaning shopping carts throughout the day.
"Last week, we began limiting the number of people inside our stores to approximately five customers per 1,000 square feet. Inside the store, we rolled out one-way aisles to better manage the flow of traffic and help our customers maintain social distance from each other and our team members. In-store signage will direct shoppers through the store.
"We also started taking the temperatures of our store and warehouse employees and asking employees a few basic health screening questions before reporting to work last week. Any employee with a fever of 100.0 or higher will be sent home."
Safeway confirmed positive coronavirus cases among its employees, but would not reveal which stores were affected.
"When an associate at one of our stores is confirmed to have COVID-19, a nurse from our Crisis Response Center contacts the associate to ensure they are seeking appropriate medical care and to initiate a close contacts investigation," a Safeway spokesperson said in a statement. "Following that investigation, we may recommend that additional members of the store team self-quarantine. Based on when the infected person became symptomatic, and when they were last in our store, we activate thorough cleaning and disinfection protocols throughout the store."
Giant refused to comment about coronavirus cases, but at least one of its employees named Lelani Jordan died after contracting COVID-19, according to family members. Jordan worked at the Giant in Largo, Md.
Whole Foods stopped responding to WUSA9's requests about specific locations, but a company spokesperson revealed in previous reports that 4 out of 5 of its D.C. stores have had employees test positive for the coronavirus.
According to a Whole Foods spokesperson, the following stores have, “Team Members who have been diagnosed with COVID-19:”
- P Street (Logan Circle)
- H Street
- Foggy Bottom
- South Capitol Hill
"Like most grocery retailers, we do have Team Members who have been affected by COVID-19," a Whole Foods spokesperson said. "We are supporting any Team Member diagnosed, or placed in quarantine so they can prioritize their health and stay home. We have rolled out extensive measures to keep people safe in our stores and facilities and continue to operate under the guidance of health and food safety authorities."
Shoppers Food Warehouse never responded to any of WUSA9's requests for comment.
All of the businesses WUSA9 made contact with said they have enhanced cleaning protocols, implemented safeguards to protect employees, and said that customers' safety is a priority despite most of the stores keeping the public out of the loop.
"The public’s behavior for going to any business in the District should be the same regardless if there has been a case among an employee or patron at that business," DOH Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said during an April press conference.