QUINCY, Mass. — A Walmart located on Falls Boulevard in Quincy has voluntarily closed Monday afternoon for an undetermined amount of time, the mayor’s office confirmed to Boston 25 News. This comes on the same day that one of the store’s employees died from COVID-19, the mayor announced.
According to Quincy’s Health Commissioner Ruth Jones, the employee died over the weekend, but it wasn’t confirmed to the health department until Monday. Eleven employees have also tested positive for the virus. Jones says the number of positive cases could likely rise once all employees of the Falls Boulevard store are tested. The health department had an inspector at the store every day last week after contact tracing determined a cluster, Jones said. The city’s health department had also been receiving complaints from customers and employees. Many of them claimed social distancing wasn’t being practiced, the store was overcrowded and people weren’t wearing masks.
“I was a little disappointed they took as long as they did. I guess that was more the local manager or the regional. Obviously the corporate manager did the right thing,” said Quincy Mayor Tom Koch.
Jones said it has been difficult trying to get in touch with Walmart to address the issues.
“We had, I’d say, probably three times tried to deal with managers on separate cases of employees trying to find contacts in the store, doing some contact tracing and we weren’t given information very quickly,” said Jones. “And then I finally called corporate because my two health nurses were having difficulty getting the Walmart managers to call them back.”
A Walmart spokesperson said in a statement, “There are no words to express the loss of our associate, and we are mourning alongside their family.” A third-party company was called in to sanitize the store Monday, the spokesperson said, and the Quincy store is working with local officials on the next steps to reopen, including testing everyone who works there.
A Walmart store in Worcester was closed last week after dozens of workers tested positive for the virus. It reopened Tuesday morning, according to a Walmart spokesperson.
“I think customers are nervous and rightly so,” said Jones. “I understand that. But usually, when you’re in a facility, you’re shopping, you’re moving and you’re in transit. You’re not usually standing and talking to someone for a long period of time. My thought is that most people would have very little risk of getting something from going into the store."
Since April 17, the city of Quincy has required face coverings for anyone shopping at essential businesses, to help stop the transmission of the virus.
“It kind of brings out the importance of wearing some face covering - for both employees and customers -because that close contact for 15 minutes or more within a 6-foot distance is what we are concerned about when you’re talking about passing this virus from person to person,” said Jones.