An employee at Whole Foods in the Pearl District of Portland has died from COVID-19, and another at the store's Hollywood neighborhood grocery store has tested positive for the virus, company spokeswoman Rachel Malish confirmed to WW.
Oregon Public Broadcasting first reported the death Wednesday afternoon.
Malish said Whole Foods is unable to provide further information regarding the death in order to protect the family's privacy. The company is offering grief counseling to employees.
Another employee at the Whole Foods in Hollywood also tested positive for COVID-19, Malish said. An email shared with WW says the employee hasn't worked at the store since April 16, but Malish did not confirm or deny that date. It is unclear when employees were informed of the positive case.
Grocery stores remain one of the few open businesses in Portland during the Governor's stay-at-home order. The death of the Whole Foods employee is significant because it highlights the risks grocery employees face as they continue working on the frontlines throughout the pandemic. It also raises concerns for consumers, who rely on grocery stores during quarantine.
Whole Foods has installed plastic glass barriers at checkout counters and is requiring workers to wear masks and have regular temperature checks, the company said. The stores are now closing two hours early to give employees time to restock shelves and sanitize the stores without customers around.
Seventy-eight people statewide have died from the virus. No new deaths were announced in Oregon today, which appears to mean the Whole Foods employee is among the deaths already listed.