While friends and family of a man and his wife are honorably asking for prayers for a couple in their 50s, both reported to be in the Intensive Care unit at Parkview, multiple employees who have screen shot and shared Facebook posts with each other saying they are seriously concerned that others may have been exposed to the virus.
Upon publishing this story on Facebook, the man’s daughter did confirm on her Facebook page the following, “Keep my parents in your thoughts please. People, take this seriously! COVID-19 has reached Southside Walmart. My father is an employee there.”
She posted on Facebook that she just visited them both at the hospital and they are “fighting for their lives.”
One woman contacted us on behalf of several family members who work at the South Side Walmart (Northern and Pueblo Blvd) and said the retail giant is not being transparent and didn’t inform staff of their coworker and his wife’s plight. She provided us with the screen shot of a Facebook post, where employees say they found out though Facebook posts, not through management.
She sent us a screen shot of a Facebook post, with comments, where a South Side Walmart employee said, “”Did anyone tell you someone at work tested positive for COVID?”
Upon hearing the news on the post on Facebook, a coworker said, “They haven’t even given us &%#$ for protection except a lil thing of hand sanitizer… I’m scared to get sick and bring it home to my kids.”
She said the manager of the store hadn’t informed anyone and the word is he wasn’t even told about the employee’s plight himself.
“No one told us anything about it or warned us,” a South Side Walmart employee said about finding out that their coworker was seriously ill with COVID-19.
Another South Side employee said Walmart had given all employees a small bottle of sanitizer for their pockets and now there’s large bottles throughout the store. She said now the store received free gloves and masks for employees but shoppers are reporting they don’t see many using them.
Our first source said she didn’t know what part of the store the employee worked in, however someone on Facebook reported to other employees that he had worked in “Cap.”
According to Walmart’s hiring page, a Cap associate stocks all of frozen and dairy, and part of the meat department or unloads trucks, and stocks paper, chemicals, pets, health & beauty, infant consumables, pharmacy, cosmetics, and grocery. This typically is a night time job.
The store also has grocery section, bakery, deli, garden center, money center, pharmacy and clinic inside.
The couple may be two of those described in a new county by the Department of Health on Saturday, which released that Pueblo County now has a total of 43 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus. They said the count includes four additional victims including a 48-year-old male, a 57-year-old male, a 20-year-old female, and a 58-year-old female.
Upon posting this story on Sunday, April 5th, the Pueblo Public Department of Health spokesperson was unavailable, but we confirmed the news of their illness with both of the couple’s Facebook pages and several others of their family and friends, including that of the first Facebook report that employees are referring to.
However a mother quickly posted in comments, “My daughter works at Southside Walmart and has been on quarantine for almost 3 weeks now she couldn’t get tested and was really sick. Shes still on quarantine, what about the people who have been sick and they never said anything about that to the other employees either. People should have choices and info.”
As the virus continues to spread in Pueblo and around the nation, on Friday, Walmart, the largest retailer in the US, announced a new nationwide policy that will effect all Pueblo Walmart stores, which will strictly limit the number of customers in each store to about 20 percent of capacity, or five shoppers per 1,000 square feet of store space.
Walmart stores are to have a single entrance where customers will be counted as they enter. Once the maximum number of shoppers inside has been reached, customers will have to wait in line outside until someone leaves before they will be permitted in. They also decided to start offering delivery services.
However, local shoppers saying that Walmarts in the Pueblo area aren’t enforcing the six ft social distancing like they should be. And parking lots at not just Walmart, but Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sam’s Club, were packed all weekend despite the governor’s Stay At Home mandate.
Store employees, including at local dollar stores, say people continue to go shopping in groups and with their children taking multiple shopping carts, something that they feel endangers the safety of their families and store workers.
People were indeed lined up in front of the Home Depot on the North Side of Pueblo, indicating a similar policy of allowing only so many people in the store at one time, guided by employees on where to go. While there’s been rumors that at least one employee at a local Lowe’s store has contracted the virus, this hasn’t been officially confirmed. Now multiple people are saying at least one from the Pueblo West Walmart contracted it, at that isn’t officially confirmed either.
“While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people,” Walmart said in an announcement.
“We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines.”
Walmart had already reduced hours to allow for cleaning and restocking.
They also began taking the temperature of its employees prior to their shifts in the hopes of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, the company said in a press release last week.
According to a press release, the company is in the process of sending digital thermometers to all of its store locations, which could take several more weeks.
For employees concerned, make note that Walmart also announced in a memo in early March that they would waive their attendance policy through the end of April as part of a new emergency leave policy.
Employees can now opt to stay home and take unpaid leave if they feel unable to work or uncomfortable going to work at Walmart.
In addition, the company said any employees who contract the virus will receive up to two weeks of pay. fter two weeks, hourly associates who aren’t able to return to work are eligible for up to 26 weeks in pay.
Officials aren’t recommending closing Walmart nationwide, but in other states where an employee tested positive, the Department of Health, which investigates and tracks the contact history of those testing positive for the virus, has asked stores to sanitize and clean especially well, particularly the area where sick employees had worked.
Department officials say they investigate each case, asking those with coronavirus whom they had contact with most recently. But in a situation like the local local Walmart employee, such contact may have been so massive, it’d be impossible to narrow down those he may have been with or near him.
At the least he most likely spread it to his wife, who’s with him at the hospital according to those that know the couple.
There’s no inside accounts that anyone who worked at the South Side Walmart being required to go under quarantine as of yet. We are told, as is typical of the coronavirus, that the Walmart employee didn’t at first know he had it, until symptoms became severe.
There are no other known cases that have received publicity in Colorado as of yet, of a Walmart employee being tested positive for the case, according to our google and news search. But there could be other cases if the local employees are right about the lack of notification and the “downplaying” of this case, not informing employees or shoppers.
The first employee who gave us information hopes that the local management announces more about the local case to co-workers, gives more proper training, protection and greater compensation for them to work in what she thinks is a high-risk environment, especially now that one of her colleagues are testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Note – for the privacy of the couple we are not announcing their names and appreciate if others don’t in comments on our Facebook pages and group and that management and the Department of Health be the point of contact for more information.
Story by Jenny Paulson / Independent Journalist