A worker at Ralph's in Sherman Oaks and another at Ralph's in Culver City have died in the last week after being hospitalized for COVID-19, the NBC4 I-Team has learned.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union and a Ralphs spokesman confirmed the deaths.
The news was tragic but not surprising to workers at the 45 local Ralphs stores where workers have tested positive.
"My heart aches. I felt like somebody punched me in the stomach. I feel it didn't have to happen," said Jackie Mayoral, one of 21 workers who tested positive at Ralph's on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood.
As the I-Team has reported, there have been outbreaks at over 70 Southern California supermarkets, including Bristol Farms in West Hollywood, Northgate Market in Inglewood, and Von's in Glendale.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has been calling on all chains to provide testing to all supermarket workers.
"These workers are putting their lives on the line just to do their jobs. People don't realize how dangerous it is for them to be coming into contact with hundreds of people a day," said Kathy Finn, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 770.
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So far, chains like Ralphs are only offering testing only to workers who are symptomatic.
But LA ear nose and throat doctor, Geoffrey Trenkle, has offered to set up pop-up testing clinics in the supermarket's parking lots for all workers. Trenkle says to keep his employees working during the pandemic, his clinics have been providing COVID-19 testing, including to some grocery workers.
"What would help decrease the spread [of the virus] is when you see one or two positives, getting everyone tested immediately and having all those results within twenty-four hours," Dr. Trenkle told NBC4.
In a statement to NBC4, Ralphs spokesman John Votava said, "We thank Dr. Trenkle for his offer and would be glad to connect him with that team" that's doing testing for symptomatic employees.
Ralphs also said it's providing mental health and grief counselors to its employees after the news of the deaths of two employees.