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Large Retail Employees Have Been Victims of COVID-19


Quick Take

A viral post falsely claims Walmart, Amazon, Kroger, Target and Costco — while staying open during the COVID-19 pandemic — “have not had any reported cases” of employees contracting the coronavirus. There have been news reports across the U.S. of workers at those companies becoming infected or dying of the disease.

Full Story

The coronavirus pandemic reached the grim milestone of more than 1 million people in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 by late April, as some states slowly began easing rules on businesses and stay-at-home restrictions.

But as protests against state restrictions on businesses increase, a misleading social media post falsely claims some big-box stores — which have been allowed to stay open throughout the pandemic — have reported no cases of the disease among their employees. It questions why “smaller businesses are still not allowed to open.”

The content of the post, which has been shared widely on Facebook, is wrong on several points.

First, it claims that even with hundreds of thousands of employees, interacting with thousands of customers, at Walmart, Amazon, Kroger (misspelled “Kroeger” in the post), Target, and Costco (misspelled “Cosco” in the post), “these companies have not had any reported cases in the news.”

This is false. There have been news reports about infections and deaths from COVID-19 at stores in these chains throughout the U.S.

Two employees at a Walmart in Chicago died from the disease, according to an April 6 article in the Washington Post.  A Walmart in Colorado had eight employees with confirmed cases, including two who died, when it was closed by local authorities on April 24, Bloomberg reported.  Four employees at a Walmart in North Las Vegas tested positive, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on April 8.

Amazon announced on April 14 that one of its employees had died from the disease, Forbes reported. And at least 74 Amazon warehouses had reported infected workers by mid-April, the Washington Post reported.

Employees at Target stores in Illinois and Michigan have tested positive for coronavirus, according to local news outlets.

A Costco employee in Texas died from COVID-19, Fox Business reported on April 10, and two employees at Costco stores in Henderson, Nevada, tested positive, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on March 31.

The viral post also claims that “none of these companies have closed stores” because of COVID-19 — but that is also false.  As noted above, a Walmart in Colorado was forced to close by local authorities after multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19.  Amazon also shut down a warehouse indefinitely in Kentucky after three workers tested positive in March.

The post then claims that despite the purported lack of closures at the large retail chains, “all of a sudden all the meat packing plants are closing and small business are still not allowed to open. None of this makes any sense at all…”

This characterization is not accurate, either.

Of the nation’s 2,700 slaughterhouses, 13 meatpacking and food processing plants ceased operations over the past two months after employees tested positive for COVID-19. Some of these closures were temporary to clean facilities and test employees. President Donald Trump issued an executive order on April 28 designating meat processing plants “critical infrastructure” in order to reopen or keep the facilities operating.

In addition, as some states gradually lift restrictions implemented to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, they have permitted some small businesses to reopen. It’s also worth noting that “essential” small businesses like local grocery stores, hardware stores and daycare centers have been permitted to remain open even during stay-at-home orders.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Cases in the U.S. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 30 Apr 2020.

Bhattarai, Abha. “Grocery workers are beginning to die of coronavirus.” Washington Post. 6 Apr 2020.

Townsend, Matthew. “Walmart Store Shut by Colorado After Three Coronavirus Deaths.” Bloomberg. 24 Apr 2020.

German, Jeff. “Fourth Walmart worker tests positive for coronavirus at same store.” Las Vegas Review-Journal. 14 Apr 2020.

Sandler, Rachel. “First Known Amazon Warehouse Worker Dies from COVID-19.” Forbes.15 Apr 2020.

Greene, Jay. “Amazon fires two tech workers who criticized the company’s warehouse workplace conditions.” Washington Post. 14 Apr 2020.

Nolen, Jermaine. “2 Chicago Target employees test positive for COVID-19.” Chicago Sun Times. 5 Apr 2020.

Baerren, Eric. “Another nursing home death confirmed; Target says employees infected.” Morning Sun. 22 Apr 2020.

Genovese, Daniella. “Costco employee who tested positive for coronavirus dies after near month-long battle.” Fox Business. 10 Apr 2020.

German, Jeff. “Costco employees in Henderson test positive for coronavirus.” Las Vegas Review-Journal. 31 Mar 2020.

Hamilton, Isobel Asher. “Amazon has finally shut US warehouse indefinitely after 3 workers tested positive for COVID-19.” Business Insider. 26 Mar 2020.

Gallagher, Dianne and Pamela Kirkland. “Meat processing plants across the US are closing due to the pandemic. Will consumers feel the impact?” CNN Business. 27 Apr 2020.

Swanson, Ana and David Yaffe-Bellany. “Trump Declares Meat Supply ‘Critical,’ Aiming to Reopen Plants.” New York Times. 28 Apr 2020.

Jeffery, Adam and Hannah Miller. “Many small businesses go back to work as some states lift stay-at-home restrictions.” CNBC. 27 Apr 2020.

Jiang, Irene. “Here’s the difference between an ‘essential’ business and a ‘nonessential’ business as more than 30 states have imposed restrictions.” Business Insider. 31 Mar 2020.