Local grocery worker positive for COVID-19

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Sobeys Canada says a worker at Watford Foodland has tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s a sign of the increased risk grocery store employees take on the job and its prompted the union which represents many in the industry to push for the changes you now see when you walk through your local store.

Sobey’s is the parent company of Foodland. On it’s corporate website, the company now reports when an employee has tested positive for the novel coronavirus So far, across the country, 28 employees have tested positive since March 28, including an employee in Watford who last worked in the store March 22. The case was reported April 1.

The majority of the employees who have tested positive are in Quebec.

The owner of Watford Foodland, Randy Stauffer, told The Independent he would like to talk about what had been done locally however he was told to refer all questions to the company’s head office.

The company is not giving out personal information about the individuals, except for the last day they worked. 

The company’s website says; “ If one of our teammates tests positive for COVID-19, we will follow the direction of public health every step of the way. We will close and deep-clean as directed by public health.

“We will work closely with public health officials to investigate the teammate’s known points of contact and recent shifts. To keep stores safe, we will notify all teammates who require self-isolation for two weeks.

“We will always do everything we can to keep our teammates and customers safe.”

The company adds where required, it communicates with customers who have shopped in the impacted location, with store signage, outlining steps to manage the situation.

Lambton Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sudit Ranade, isn’t sure about the legalities of Sobey’s releasing this information, however, he says public health wouldn’t release this information unless there was some direct advice – that’s different from the stay at home, social distancing and hand washing guidelines already in place – to give to people who may have had direct exposure to the worker.

Terry Deelstra is the communications officer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents thousands of grocery store workers across Canada. He says members want to be alerted when there is a problem.

“We don’t necessarily want to single people out and name and shame them, but we want to make sure other employees and the public is informed….and make sure all the proper methods, recommended by public health, are followed.”

Deelstra says grocery stores have a “particular challenge” because the public is still coming in to get food. The UFCW, he says advocated for things like the plexi-glass shields at the checkouts and proper protective equipment and training for the workers. 

That, he says, they protect the seniors and vulnerable who still need to get groceries.

Deelstra says it has not been easy, particularly when it comes to getting the protective gear for grocery workers.

“This is a world-wide pandemic and we’re working as much as we can to protect our members, given the circumstances.”