WASHINGTON — Four of the five Whole Foods stores within D.C.’s city limits have employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus, a company spokesperson confirms.
Whole Foods on Thursday initially issued a statement saying all stores had a case of coronavirus in them, but a spokesperson clarified Thursday evening saying “We previously shared that our Tenleytown store had a Team Member that tested positive for COVID-19 in the store. We have since learned that was not the case, and we apologize for the confusion."
The information was released after a WUSA9 investigation revealed at least six employees at the Whole Foods in Logan Circle tested positive for the coronavirus.
An Amazon employee at the Logan Circle store, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, was outraged at the number of positive COVID-19 cases among employees and the fact that the public was not notified before entering the building to shop.
"I was like, 'This is out of control.' These people don’t care nothing about us. They just want us to work while people are getting sick," the worker told WUSA9.
A second employee, who works as a Whole Foods cashier at the Logan Circle store, came forward with the same concerns.
Both employees provided WUSA9 with several text messages and emails that were sent to employees confirming positive cases at their work site.
WUSA9 was able to independently confirm six of the cases at the store, which include employees who were last in the store on the following dates: March 27, April 1, April 3 (at least two cases), April 8 and April 9.
"It's about safety for everyone in that store, and the public doesn’t know that they have employees who came down with the corona in that store," the employee said.
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
Prior to WUSA9’s investigation, the confirmed Whole Foods location the public was made aware of was in Foggy Bottom as WUSA9 reported on April 1.
According to the D.C. Health Department, "essential businesses are not required by law to notify the public when an employee tests positive for COVID-19."
Grocery stores and other essential businesses are provided with health guidance from the District regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) to help ensure the health, safety and welfare their customers and employees.
"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.
The Whole Foods spokesperson sent WUSA9 the following statement:
“The safety of our Team Members and customers is our top priority and we are diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities. We’ve been working closely with our store Team Members, and are supporting the diagnosed Team Members, who are in quarantine. Out of an abundance of caution, the stores performed an additional deep cleaning and disinfection, on top of our current enhanced sanitation measures. As we prioritize the health and safety of our customers and Team Members, we will continue to do the following to help contain the spread of COVID-19:
- Stores are operating under social distancing and crowd control measures. We have installed plexiglass barriers at check out and are requiring temperature checks and face masks for anyone working in our stores and facilities.
- We have implemented enhanced daily cleanliness and disinfection protocols across all stores and facilities, on top of our standard stringent protocols.
- We are closing stores up to two hours early to give our Team Members more time to restock shelves, sanitize our stores, and rest in preparation for the next day.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser addressed concerns about the safety of all essential workers in a Wednesday press conference.
"We also know that African Americans disproportionately provide front line services, so if we’re concerned about black people dying with COVID-19 in Washington, D.C., everybody needs to do their part," Bowser said. "If you want stores to continue serving you food, everyone needs to do their part."
Whole Foods confirmed stores have been deep cleaned after hours on more than one occasion.