Wenatchee Walmart temporarily shuts doors due to staff COVID-19 outbreak


WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Walmart Supercenter will close for extensive cleaning Friday after local health officials confirmed a cluster of positive tests for COVID-19 among its employees.

A total of 21 Walmart workers are now known to have tested positive for the infection, the Chelan-Douglas Health District said today. The confirmation follows allegations from employees, reported by NCWLIFE on Tuesday, that 17 workers had tested positive there.

The health district says all but one of the infected staffmembers are Chelan or Douglas County residents; the last resides in Grant County. All will be asked to self-isolate for at least 10 days and monitor themselves for symptoms of the virus, including fever, dry cough and respiratory distress.

Walmart announced in a corporate press statement that the Wenatchee store would close this afternoon and remain shut down to customers until 7 a.m. Saturday for sanitizing work. Store associates who spoke to NCWLIFE today said the closure went into effect at 2 p.m.

Earlier this week, multiple employees at the store told NCWLIFE that
store management had not consistently enforced requirements for facial masking among some associate teams, and did not tell workers the extent of on-staff COVID-19 infections even as the numbers rose in the last week.

A week went by after the first case was noted before managers notified any Walmart associates that they might have been exposed to an infectious coworker, one staffmember said.

Store workers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, told NCWLIFE the Walmart policy of requiring mask use by employees was not observed on some teams, notably the overnight crews in charge of receiving inventory and stocking shelves before the store opens to receive customers each day.

The Wenatchee store, 2000 N. Wenatchee Ave., employs roughly 200 people and has remained open to the public during the coronavirus pandemic. Walmart and other big-box stores, which sell food and household goods, are deemed essential businesses under Washington’s public health emergency.

In an email announcing the store’s closure Thursday, Walmart director of global communications Anne Hatfield wrote: “Everything we’re doing is for the well-being of our associates and customers, and in consideration of guidance by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and health experts. When the store reopens on Saturday, we will continue to conduct associate health screens and temperature checks, provide associates with face masks and gloves, and require associates and customers to wear a mask or other facial covering.”