Coronavirus

Testing Expands for California Grocery Store Workers

New Leaf tested 80 of its employees in response to a cluster of COVID-19 cases

New Leaf Community Markets’ Aptos location reopened Tuesday, April 28, after closing due to confirmed COVID-19 cases. PHOTO TARMO HANNULA

As of Monday, May 4, 14 staffers at the Aptos New Leaf Community Markets had tested positive for COVID-19.

A cluster of cases forced the store to temporarily close. New Leaf tested 80 employees, and more than 40 of the tests have come back negative.

New Leaf wanted to test all of its employees around the time that the store first closed, but Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel advised against it. The issue was the limited supply of tests. “Because we haven’t validated testing in asymptomatic people, we said that was not a good idea,” Newel said at an April 23 press conference.

But the grocery store chain was able to access several dozen tests—enough to test both symptomatic and asymptomatic workers—through a Santa Cruz County healthcare provider late last month, according to Lindsay Gizdich, New Leaf’s marketing specialist.

In the days that followed, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), which has been working to ramp up testing, changed the tiered priority for how to allocate tests. On May 1, the CDPH released a guidance putting essential workers—“e.g., utility workers, grocery store workers, food supply workers”—in the top tier when it comes to allocating COVID-19 tests.

New Leaf has been paying all employees who are quarantined at home due to possible exposure to the coronavirus.

“We are staying in touch with all staff while they are recovering and self-isolating at home,” Gizdich tells GT via email. “We are still awaiting some test results but can assure the community that all staff members who are working in the Aptos store have tested negative for COVID-19 and have been cleared to return to work by their healthcare provider. We have not been notified of any other store staff cases.”


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