For a couple of weeks now, grocery stores have been one of the only respites from cabin fever. Despite all the lockdowns and social-distancing measures across America, people still need food. In the most restrictive states, the grocery store has become about the last place you can go where life is lived more or less as it previously was.
Except now, not even grocery stores can keep up the facade of normalcy. As many health experts have feared, last week, reports began to trickle in of grocery-store workers coming down with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. A Trader Joe’s employee in Seattle tested positive. So did a King Soopers employee in Denver, along with two Fred Meyer employees: one in Monroe, Washington, and one in Portland, Oregon. A worker at the Columbus Circle and Bryant Park Whole Foods locations in New York, through which thousands of people filter every day, tested positive as well.
So far, the virus does not appear to be extremely widespread among grocery workers. Nationally, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents the employees of some grocery stores, told me only six of its members are known to have tested positive for the coronavirus. But many more might have the virus and have not been tested. Until this past week, it was possible to at least wishfully imagine that grocery stores were somehow immune to the virus. Now the risk has become even more apparent: Yes, people can get COVID-19 at the grocery store.