Worcester Walmart closed to public after 23 employees test positive for COVID-19

WORCESTER, Mass. — A Walmart in Worcester has been closed to the public after 23 employees there tested positive for coronavirus, a city official said Wednesday.

The store on Tobias Boland Way will not be allowed to reopen until it is professionally cleaned and all employees are tested for the virus, said Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Augustus said the earliest cases among store employees occurred on April 8, but “the bulk of those 23 (positive cases) have happened in the last seven days."

So, on Wednesday, an order to close the supercenter was issued “effective immediately," he said.

“The Walmart is now closed and will not be allowed to open until it is professionally cleaned,” Augustus said.

All 400 employees will have to be tested or re-tested before the store is able to reopen, he said.

The city’s health department inspected the store Tuesday and found employees and customers were not wearing masks or personal protective equipment. Worcester’s medical director, Dr. Michael Hirsh, said during the press conference that this was the first time he’s had to issue an emergency order, but it was needed.

“I think it’s the safest thing for the community to have that supermarket closed down until we’re sure that people aren’t put at risk by continuing to shop there and we’ll try to undo this as quickly as we can,” Hirsh said. “We’re going to try to put up a testing system for their employees in the next two days to see if we can get them back online.”

Worcester has seen almost 2,000 positive cases and 102 deaths associated with COVID-19. So far this week, the number of patients being admitted to city hospitals is increasing.

“We had the highest number of patients we’ve had in the hospital and if not for having the DCU as surge capacity, we would’ve been overwhelmed,” Dr. Eric Dickson, the president and CEO of UMass Memorial Healthcare told Boston 25 News earlier this week. “So we’re keeping up but it’s not over yet.”

MassLive reported that Walmart is also closing its Abington location Thursday for deep cleaning; a Springfield location was closed Monday for cleaning and reopened the next day.

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