WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The risks facing grocery store workers were put into the spotlight on Wednesday as two different businesses in the DMV reported positive cases of coronavirus with an employee at each location.
The Trader Joe's in Arlington off North Highland Street had signs posted on its doors on Wednesday announcing the closure and saying that the store would be cleaned.
In a statement, the company said the crew member last worked at the grocery store on March 29th.
Hours later, Whole Foods announced that an employee at the Foggy Bottom location had tested positive for coronavirus.
Following the closures, United Food & Commercial Workers Communications Director Jonathan Williams said the developments showed the dangers that grocery store workers face during the pandemic.
"It’s horrible," he said. "They’re exposed to a lot of people in the public. A given grocery worker could be exposed to hundreds of customers, maybe thousands in a given day.”
For Williams, the thousands of grocery store workers that the union represents each play a pivotal role in the current ordeal.
He told WUSA that the union was calling on leaders to classify the men and women at food stores as first responders, which would provide them with better benefits and protection.
"They’re continuing to keep our communities running," he said.
Moving forward, Williams said the public could help keep grocery store workers safe.
"We’re asking customers to respect these protocols and keep our members safe if they expect these stores to continue operating," he said.