Trader Joe’s outlines COVID-19 cases amid focus on grocery worker exposure risk

David Salazar
Managing Editor
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With recent attention turning to COVID-19 safety among grocery store workers, Trader Joe’s on Friday shared the safety precautions it has taken throughout the pandemic, as well as data on how many of its stores have seen employees with COVID-19. 

The Monrovia, Calif.-based chain noted that through Oct. 31, 24% of its 514 stores saw zero positive COVID-19 cases among its employees. Eighty-three percent saw between zero and four cases. Overall, the company has had 1,250 positive cases reported — roughly 2.4% of its 53,000 employees. The company said that this is below the average rate of positive cases in the communities where its stores are located. The company noted that 95% of employees who tested positive and completed a quarantine period have recovered and returned to work. 

Trader Joe’s said that two of its employees have died with COVID-19 as a contributing factor. The company said that its procedures meet or exceed guidelines on safety from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include wellness checks at the start of each shift, a focus on good hygiene practices, social distancing support that includes limiting the number of customers in the store, requiring face coverings, PPE for employees and plexiglass barriers, among other efforts. 

"The health and safety practices and procedures that have been put in place, and that continually evolve, have been effective because of the great work done by our crewmembers in every store, every day,” said Jon Basalone, Trader Joe’s president of stores. “We appreciate our crewmembers’ diligence and our customers' patience as we work each day to make our stores safe for everyone.”

Trader Joe’s disclosure follows the recent publication in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, which tested employees at a grocery store in Massachusetts in May, finding that employees with direct customer contact were five times more likely to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Additionally, among the 20% of employees who tested positive, 76% were asymptomatic. 

A study from Axonify in September focused on employer safety practices among front-line workers found that 65% of front-line employees in retail felt that they were provided needed training and support. Additionally, two-thirds felt their employer had taken proper action to keep staff safe during the pandemic.