- Walmart will soon start doing temperature checks on employees and ask basic health screening questions before their shifts begin, according to a company announcement. The retailer said it could take up to three weeks to distribute infrared thermometers to all of its stores and facilities.
- If an employee has a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, they will be asked to stay home or seek medical care and will be paid for showing up to work. They can return to work only after they’ve been fever-free for at least three days.
- Walmart is also ordering masks and gloves for all employees, which they can choose to wear or not. The masks, which will be available to workers in one to two weeks, are not the N-95 masks most needed by healthcare workers but will be high-quality, the company stated.
Walmart’s latest safety measures come as grocery workers and shoppers are growing increasingly uneasy about being inside stores. Many retail and delivery employees have been vocal about safety concerns and the lack of gear provided to them to protect them from the coronavirus.
On Monday, a group of Instacart workers walked off the job to protest what organizers called insufficient compensation and protective measures from the company. Also on Monday, Amazon workers from its Staten Island warehouse walked out to call attention to the lack of protective gear for employees.
Whole Foods employees across the country plan on calling in sick Tuesday to protest the lack of safety equipment to protect themselves from the virus.
As COVID-19 cases spread across the U.S., with more than 140,000 cases now confirmed, the risk of transmission rises. Numerous grocers, including Walmart, Kroger, Trader Joe's and Publix, have reported employees testing positive for the virus. Trader Joe's recently closed down and disinfected six stores after reporting workers had either tested positive or were being treated for suspected infection.
Taking workers temperatures is a step grocers have taken in other countries, including China, and raises the prospect of stores eventually testing customers before they enter. At least one independent grocer is currently testing shoppers this way. Meanwhile, the use of masks and gloves by employees was initially frowned upon by companies aiming to follow CDC guidelines and avoid alarming consumers. But grocers like Kroger are now saying workers may wear personal protective equipment (PPE) if they wish.
The Food Industry Association has asked the federal government to supply grocery store employees with masks but has been unsuccessful, according to the Atlantic.
Walmart said it is also telling employees to keep three numbers in mind at all times: 6, 20 and 100. The first number reflects the number of feet apart people should be at all times, while 20 reflects the number of seconds team members need to spend washing hands and 100 is the temperature above which workers should stay home. The company is also encouraging workers to monitor their temperatures themselves.
On Monday, Walmart announced it would provide contactless payment options for shoppers at checkout and for store pickup as well as home delivery. The company along with other retailers have also installed plexiglass barriers, marked out customer spacing in high-traffic areas and offered dedicated hours for senior shoppers.
On the employee benefits front, Walmart has increased wages, provided cash bonuses and will waive its attendance policy if an associate doesn’t feel well enough to report to work. The retailer will also give any employee diagnosed with the virus or quarantined by a health official two weeks of paid sick leave.