A Walmart in suburban Denver is granted permission to reopen after it was ordered to temporarily close when three people connected to the store died of COVID-19 disease, and at least six employees tested positive.
Officials at the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) announced April 26 that Walmart Supercenter at 14000 East Exposition in Aurora, Colorado, would be allowed to reopen after it was cleaned and disinfected by a third party contractor over the weekend.
In a press release, the Department said the store has “good social distancing measures, signage throughout, enhanced metering of shoppers into the store, one-way traffic through isles, employee communication systems and usage of masks, and a robust employee illness screening and reporting process utilizing tools provided by TCHD.”
The store was ordered closed on April 24 following the death of an employee from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus. A third-party contractor and an employee’s family member also died from the disease. At the time, TCHD said there were six additional confirmed cases among employees, plus another three living suspect cases awaiting lab confirmation.
However, in an updated press release on Sunday, the Department said there were 11 additional cases of the CCP virus, also linked to the outbreak, although it noted that the majority of employees who tested positive have not been at work for more than a week.
The deaths include a 72-year-old female employee; her 63-year-old husband, who did not work at the store; and a 69-year-old male who worked for an independent security company.
Amid the deaths, TCHD said it had also received several complaints regarding the Walmart store from employees and shoppers regarding the lack of social distancing, and too many people being in the store at one time. Claims were also made about employees not wearing masks or face coverings, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The store’s management and staff have taken this very seriously and have good safety and health measures in place,” said John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department.
In a statement to CNN on Friday, 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.”
“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 reopen the store,” the spokesperson added.
Colorado has been under a 30 day statewide Stay-at-Home Order since March 26. However, the order expired on April 26. On Sunday, Gov. Jared Polis issued a “safer at home” executive order, advising vulnerable populations, including seniors, to continue staying home, only leaving when necessary.
Retail businesses can reopen with curbside pickup on Monday and voluntary or elective medical, dental, and veterinary surgeries and procedures may resume if facilities are following required safety protocols. Retail shops will then be allowed to reopen their doors to customers on Friday with strict precautions.
On May 4, commercial businesses can open with up to 50 percent of employees working in-person, as long as best practices are implemented to protect the health and safety of employees.
However, businesses are encouraged to allow employees to continue telecommuting at higher levels if possible.