Grocery employees test positive for coronavirus at more South Florida stores

Publix has confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 at a number of locations in South Florida despite preventative measures.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – In recent days, Local 10 News has learned of positive coronavirus cases among workers at Publix, Whole Foods, BJ’s and Trader Joe’s, proving that no grocery chain is immune from this crisis.

A Publix in Hallandale Beach (1400 E Hallandale Beach Blvd.) and a BJ’s Wholesale Club in Hialeah (17250 NW 57 Ave.) are the latest to confirm positive cases of employees.

“This team member has not worked in the club in over a week,” a BJ’s spokeswoman wrote in an email of their case. “Upon receiving confirmation of a team member with a confirmed case of COVID-19, we immediately had a third party environmental cleaning company conduct a thorough sanitation and deep cleaning of the club. ... In accordance with our new sick leave policy, an affected team member will be paid for up to 14 days.”

Several employees from a Publix in Miami Lakes (15000 Miami Lakes Dr.) have been on a precautionary self-isolation after working closely with an associate who has since tested positive for the virus.

The Lakeland-based chain has also confirmed cases among workers at Publix locations in Mary Brickell Village (911 SW 1st Ave, Miami), Cutler Bay (20425 Old Cutler Rd.) and Kendall (9420 SW 56th St.).

“Like other essential service providers, we have seen our own associates and their families personally impacted by COVID-19,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as public health officials have indicated, we expect to see an increase in cases as the virus spreads in our communities.”

Publix says any worker who tests positive for COVID-19 is quarantined and granted paid leave for 14 days, and the same is done for any employee who has been in close contact with the associate who tests positive.

Across South Florida, Publix workers have also reportedly tested positive for the virus at locations in Miami Beach (1100 6th St.), Miami Shores (9050 Biscayne Blvd.), Coral Gables (1500 South Douglas Rd.), Boca Raton (9720 Clint Moore Rd.), Delray Beach (16130 Jog Rd.). and in the Florida Keys (5407 Overseas Highway in Marathon).

Coronavirus-related deaths of employees from Walmart and Trader Joe’s stores out of state highlight how vulnerable these employees are.

“The grocery stores are packed, and when you have close contact, that’s when this virus is most likely to be transmitted,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. "Having the masks, I think, could also cut down on the transmissibility of this.”

Publix is now allowing associates the option of wearing face masks and gloves after previously forbidding them. Competitor Winn-Dixie says it too is letting workers wear gloves and masks while on the job to further safeguard against the spread of COVID-19.

Stores have also beefed-up sanitation measures, installed plexiglass barriers to help separate shoppers and workers and shortened their hours to allow more time for cleaning and restocking.

“We are proud of how our dedicated associates are taking care of our customers and each other through this unprecedented and challenging time,” Publix’s Brous said. “And, we thank our customers for continuing to trust us with providing them with the goods and services they need.”

We’ve reached out to Sedano’s and Winn-Dixie to find out how many cases of the virus they’ve had among employees in South Florida.


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About the Authors:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.