SALEM, Mass. — An employee at the Salem Market Basket has died from COVID-19, according to a statement from the company.
The victim has been identified as Vitalina Williams, a part-time Market Basket associate who served in the company’s Salem store for eleven years.
David Williams, Vitalina’s husband, says his world has been turned upside down after he lost his wife of 19 years to the deadly virus.
"My whole life is going to change...why?” said Williams. “I’ve been happily lost in ‘Vita’ world for the last 19 years.”
Williams says Vitalina showed flu-like symptoms at the end of March. Then, a few days later, she started having trouble breathing and eventually needed a respirator at the hospital.
Days later, Williams said, she passed away.
“It just kept getting worse,” said Williams. "Maybe I got it and had no symptoms and she got it from me, Lord forbid. But that runs in the back of your mind.”
Vitalina also worked full-time at a Walmart in Lynn, so her husband says he’s not sure how she contracted the virus.
Two other associates at that store have tested positive, the company announced. They have been ordered to quarantine and alert their close contacts to do so as well.
Other employees at supermarkets across the country have died in recent days, prompting grocery workers to call for more protection.
“Although we are not able to share any details about our Associate, in deference to her family, the entire Market Basket community is deeply saddened by this loss,” said Justine Griffin, spokesperson for Market Basket. “We offer our support to her family and coworkers during this difficult time. We have made counseling services available to any colleagues or family members in need.”
The company says it has implemented new safety protections for its employees, "focusing on high-touch surfaces.” Employees at the stores regularly clean those surfaces, like counters, registers, register belts, baskets, carriages, payment devices, touch pads, desks and door handles.
Employees are also working to install Plexiglas shields between customers and cashiers.
The store’s release said gloves are available to all workers, but the company said it was still working to obtain masks.
“What do I do next?” said Williams. “Literally it’s my whole world is going – has gone – it was a dream. It was a wonderful, wonderful life I had with her, but it all just like dissipated like it’s a dream.”
A Market Basket spokesperson says the company is complying with state-wide guidelines to keep both customers and their associates safe from COVID-19. While increasing their cleaning measures, they’re also limiting the number of people allowed inside the stores.
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