Ralphs supermarkets said Monday that it will not provide coronavirus testing to all of its workers, contrary to a previous announcement. The statement comes as the NBC4 I-Team has learned that 70 local supermarkets have employees who have tested positive, including 45 Ralphs stores.
Monday, the union representing most Los Angeles-area grocery workers called on all chains to offer testing to all employees.
“I think if somebody is serving the public on a regular basis, we should make sure those people are not infectious,” said Kathy Finn, secretary-treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770.
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Last Friday, a Ralphs spokesman told NBC4 that the supermarket chain would make home test kits available starting in mid May to all 20,000 of its employees.
Ralphs spokesman John Votava told NBC4 Monday that he “misspoke” on Friday and added "I apologize." He said Ralphs will only be offering testing to employees showing symptoms or who have a medical need, in accordance with guidelines from the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention.
The grocery workers union told NBC4 that Ralphs has the financial means to provide testing to all of its employees. According to a report from Supermarket News, Kroger – Ralphs’ parent company – has seen sales jump 30 percent during the coronavirus pandemic month of March.
“These grocery companies that are making so much, should also be sacrificing in some way for the health of the communities, and I think that means testing everyone to make sure this disease is not spreading.” said the UFCW's Finn.
The Albertsons chain of supermarkets – including Vons and Pavilions – has 26 stores with one or more positive employees, including a Vons on Los Feliz Road in Glendale with six positive workers, according to the union. The LA County Department of Public Health’s website also lists five employee cases at a West Hollywood Bristol Farms.
In a statement to the I-Team, Bristol Farms wrote that stores with presumed or confirmed cases are sanitized with “EPA approved state-of-the-art service that kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses.” The supermarket chain is also implementing other precautions at all of its stores including social distancing and installing plexiglass shields at cash registers.
The “rock ’n' roll” Ralphs on Sunset Boulevard now has at least 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its employees, up from 19 cases just last Friday.
The I-Team reached out to both Bristol Farms and the Albertsons corporation. Bristol Farm’s full statement is available below. Albertsons has not yet responded to the I-Team’s calls and emails, but linked here is the company’s public statement on coronavirus protections.
Statement from Bristol Farms:
For the safety of our team members and our customers, Bristol Farms has implemented food- and hospital-grade sanitization protocols in response to both presumed positive and confirmed positive cases for COVID-19.
To maintain full transparency, we report and specify presumed positives and confirmed positives to the Department of Public Health. We currently have three presumed positive and two confirmed positive team members at our West Hollywood location. The two confirmed positive team members last worked in the store on 04/17 and 04/28, respectively. Each team member is on quarantine, in accordance with CDC and Department of Public Health guidelines. We are pleased to report all affected team members currently are recuperating at home. Additionally, one previously affected team member has fully recovered and is back to work.
When we have a presumed positive or positive case, we use an EPA approved state-of-the-art service that kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, sanitizes 99.999% of bacteria on food contact surfaces with no rinse required, and eliminates odor at a molecular level.
Human Resources contacts any staff that worked in close contact with the affected team member and places them on quarantine for 14 days. Our HR Department will work with the affected team member and any who are self-quarantining to ensure they have sufficient leave until they are able to return to work in compliance with all Department of Public Health requirements.
In addition, we have instituted the following preventative measures at all locations: social distancing protocols; regulating the number of customers in the store; installation of plexiglass sneeze guards at all registers and service scales; requiring all team members, customers, and visitors wear face coverings; as well as offering a daily Senior Shopping Hour from 6am-7am.
Bristol Farms has proudly served Southern California since 1982. We value the trust our communities have placed in us and are doing our utmost to protect our customers and team members.