Business

Walmart store in Colorado shuts down after coronavirus deaths

Posted April 24, 2020 6:10 p.m. EDT

— Public health officials in Aurora, Colorado, ordered a Walmart supercenter to shut down Thursday after a 72-year-old Walmart worker, her 63-year-old husband, and a 69-year-old third-party security contractor for the company died from coronavirus.

Six additional employees at the store tested positive for coronavirus, the Tri-County Health Department in Colorado said Thursday. Three other workers were suspected of having the virus and were awaiting lab results.

The department said it closed the store after receiving complaints from employees and shoppers about the "lack of social distancing, too many people in the store at one time, and employees not wearing masks or face coverings."

"These deaths underscore the severity of the highly-contagious coronavirus, and the need for diligent safety precautions to prevent any further spread, including the wearing of masks," Dr. John Douglas Jr., executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, said in a statement.

A Walmart spokesperson said, "Colorado has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, and several associates at this store have tested positive. Sadly, one of our associates has passed away. The temporary closure will allow third-party cleaning experts to further clean and sanitize the store."

Added the spokesperson: "We recognize how hard this is for our associates in Aurora and everyone impacted by this difficult situation. We want to do everything we can to support them at this time. We will continue to work closely with Tri-County Health Department and take additional steps as needed to re-open the store."

Walmart has responded to the coronavirus crisis by installing plexiglass barriers at checkout lanes and social distancing markers around the store. It has also been taking workers' temperatures before they begin their shifts and started requiring that workers wear masks on duty.

The company also said it has been limiting the number of customers who can be in a store at the same time.

The liquor license for a Walmart in Evergreen Park, Illinois, was briefly revoked earlier this month after two workers at the store died from the coronavirus.

Dozens of grocery store and retail workers have died from the coronavirus, and thousands have gotten sick. Walmart declined to say how many of its employees have died or tested positive for coronavirus. The company said it relies on public health departments for those numbers.

On Thursday, Democratic Senators Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand and Richard Blumenthal wrote to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon to "strongly urge you to do more to prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of your employees."

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