DETROIT (WXYZ) — The City of Detroit confirmed Thursday that 23 out of 196 Whole Foods employees at the Mack Avenue location have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Midtown Detroit location is now receiving rapid testing for all employees as the outbreak is addressed.
One-hundred-ninety-six employees work at the market. The positive tests represent 11 percent of the staff.
"We have received a commitment from Whole Foods that no workers or close contacts of any employee who has tested positive will be allowed back to work until they have produced a negative test result," said Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair. "This is a reminder to all grocery stores of the availability of vaccinations and the importance of getting their employees vaccinated to make sure this does not happen again."
Whole Foods tells 7 Action News that since the start of the pandemic, employees have been diagnosed with COVID at the Detroit location, and in every instance, there is a professional deep cleaning and disinfection, on top of enhanced sanitation measures put in place as a response.
“The safety of our Team Members and customers remains our top priority, which is why we address any confirmed diagnosis in our stores with a comprehensive action plan that includes enhanced cleaning and contact tracing, as well as communicating directly with our Team Members," a Whole Foods Market spokesperson said in a statement to 7 Action News Tuesday while addressing concerns about the store remaining closed for several days. "We support any Team Member who is diagnosed positive or placed in quarantine so they can prioritize their health and stay home. We have rolled out extensive measures to keep people safe in our stores and are diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities.”
Whole Foods says that there were false positives within the 23, therefore the number of positives is lower. ut the city health department is saying that is incorrect.
As you know, we are requiring our Midtown Detroit Team Members to receive a negative COVID-19 test before returning to work. If a Team Member tests positive for COVID, they are eligible for up to two weeks of paid time off.
Of note, as a result of secondary testing and screening, we are seeing false positives. These findings make the number positive cases currently circulating (23) inaccurate.
Further, our parent company Amazon advocated for priority access for Team Members and instituted a reimbursement policy to ensure Team Members are compensated for time spent receiving a vaccine. In Detroit, we texted all Team Members by text message twice in February and have flyers in stores to encourage them to register to receive a vaccination through the City. It's our understanding that appointments were very limited. We are now working with the City to make sure our Team Members are prioritized.
But the city health department is saying that is incorrect.
In addition to the 13 cases that were already identified, 10 tests came back positive. We send all positives to another lab for sequencing. Five of those 10 tests came back negative. When we were notified, the Health Department retested those five people. All five were positive, which means there are no false positives.
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