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SaveMart worker with virus prompts temporary closure
covid 19 graphic

Residents in Lathrop were temporarily without a dedicated grocery store over the weekend after an employee at Save Mart tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Modesto-based company – which has had local roots in the heart of the Central Valley for almost seven decades – the Lathrop store, which is the city’s only standalone grocery store, closed Sunday afternoon for disinfection after it was disclosed that an employee that had been working at the site had acquired the COVID-19 virus.

While some in the community have called for additional information to be released – including the shifts that the employee was working and whether they had come into contact with customers – none was released through the company’s social media accounts or on its website. According to the company, privacy laws prevent them from releasing any information that could lead to the identification of the employee, who last worked on Sunday, May 31.

The notification about the case was not made public until June 7 when the store closed for cleaning.

Before the store reopened on Monday it was fogged with a plant-based disinfectant that is safe for humans before it was gone over by a professional cleaning crew. All of the food inside of the store was covered before the process began so that items that would later be purchased would not be contaminated with the virucide that was used to eliminate any possibility of the virus lingering within the building.

According to a fact sheet released on Monday, there is currently no evidence to support the theory that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food – although it is recommended when preparing or eating food to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.

Why the company did not return a call for comment, multiple people on social media were reporting that a number of employees that work at the store were on home quarantine because of potential exposure to the virus – noting that none of the employees that they see on a regular basis were there when they went into the store.

While much of the spotlight has been on the essential workers on the frontline in healthcare and in emergency medical services during the Coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores were one of the industries where stores did not close – often packed in the early days of the shelter in place order because people were working from home rather than in the office and eating more meals at home rather than in restaurants.

San Joaquin County has seen a recent spike in the number of COVID-19 cases being diagnosed – including a one-day record of 67 new cases on June 5 – and currently 43 people are hospitalized in the county with the virus. In the last 14 days there have been 334 active cases.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.