Months after multiple employees tested positive for COVID-19 at The Fresh Market in Southern Pines, two new infections have been linked to the grocery store.
Meghan Flynn, director of communications for the Greensboro-based supermarket chain, said the company learned Tuesday that a pair of workers had contracted the disease. Both employees had “recently traveled out of town together,” she said.
“Neither had symptoms while at work,” Flynn wrote in an email to The Pilot. “Their symptoms developed later after their last work days.”
One of the staff members hasn’t worked at the store since June 24. The other employee last reported for work on Saturday.
“We have not had to put any other team members on voluntary quarantine, and have followed all of the enhanced protocols, including additional overnight deep cleaning and disinfection, and posting a sign at our entrance to notify guests,” Flynn said.
After three employees tested positive for COVID-19 in late April, the chain hired a third-party company to conduct “enhanced overnight cleaning and disinfection” at the store three times a week, The Pilot reported at the time. The Fresh Market has required shoppers to wear face coverings at each of its nearly 160 locations since April 14.
“We believe our practices of mandatory face coverings and additional cleaning and disinfection protocols, along with social distancing for team members and guests, have continued to make The Fresh Market a safe place for our team members to work and for our guests to shop in,” Flynn said.
The company’s policy on face coverings was somewhat prescient. An executive order signed by Gov. Roy Cooper that took effect Friday requires people across North Carolina to wear face coverings in public places “where physical distancing of 6 feet from other people who are not members of the same household or residence is not possible.” The mandate will remain in place until at least July 17.
During a Facebook Live Q&A on Wednesday, Miriam King of the Moore County Health Department said “employers and businesses are not required to notify staff or patrons if a staff member has tested positive” for COVID-19. Still, she encouraged retailers to be forthcoming about infections.
“We do encourage all businesses — we encourage all places that sell, all places where people eat — we encourage you to be proactive,” King said. “We encourage you to share information when it is not required at this time that places have to tell whether or not someone has tested positive.”
Some establishments, most notably nursing homes and child care facilities, are required to tell the Health Department when an employee, patron or resident tests positive for COVID-19. On Thursday, health officials announced that an outbreak had been reported at a third long-term care facility in Moore County.
The Health Department’s online dashboard tracking the spread of the coronavirus showed a total of 511 laboratory-confirmed cases in Moore County as of 6:30 p.m., an increase of 93 cases from a week ago. About 382 people are believed to have recovered from the disease, according to the Health Department, while 14 residents have died.