SANTA MONICA, CA — A fifth Whole Foods Market worker has tested positive for coronavirus at one of the grocery chain’s smallest locations in the U.S. as the pandemic rages on, a team member confirmed with Patch.
This is the fifth worker at 1425 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, to test positive for coronavirus, with the last reported case in early October. It’s unclear where the worker was exposed to the virus. Workers were notified via text last week.
Employees have complained that the location is small and makes it difficult to socially distance between customers and workers. The store is so tiny that the employees have a separate break room off-site, in an area separate from the store.
Essential workers have faced some of the greatest risks throughout the pandemic. Whole Foods workers are Amazon employees and have no union representation.
Patch reached out to Whole Foods Market for a statement on how it is responding to the ongoing cases.
“The safety of our Team Members and customers remains our top priority, which is why we address any confirmed diagnosis in our stores with a comprehensive action plan that includes enhanced cleaning and contact tracing, as well as communicating directly with our Team Members,” a Whole Foods Market spokesperson told Patch. “We support any Team Member who is diagnosed positive or placed in quarantine so they can prioritize their health and stay home. We have rolled out extensive measures to keep people safe in our stores and are diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities.”
Whole Foods Market declined to tell Patch if there are outbreaks at other stores.
Throughout the pandemic, grocery workers are on the front lines and have not had hazard pay in recent months.
The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents more than 141,000 California frontline workers and 1.3 million workers in the U.S., reports that more than 350 front line workers have died during the pandemic. More than 48,000 workers have been infected or exposed as cases increase across the state and throughout the country.
“America’s essential workers are facing a holiday season of unparalleled danger as COVID-19 cases explode across the country,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said. “With more than 1 million new COVID-19 cases in the past week, and deaths spiking to unprecedented levels, we are entering what could be the deadliest phase of this pandemic for millions of America’s essential frontline workers.”
A Brookings Institution report reveals huge profits for grocery chains that have failed to reinstate hazard pay for frontline workers facing exposure to coronavirus, including Amazon, which owns Whole Foods. Amazon profits are reportedly up 53 percent following the company’s move to end hazard pay and revealing at least 20,000 workers have been infected in the company.