Town health officials notified Wednesday morning; store likely closed until Sunday
Less than a week after Walmart insisted it was closing the Abington store for a precautionary deep cleaning, the company announced early Wednesday morning the store has closed temporarily so all employees can be tested for COVID-19.
Three Walmart stores South of Boston are now closed out of concerns over employee health: Abington, Avon, and Quincy, where one employee has died and 11 employees overall have tested positive. Walmart’s Worcester store, where 81 employees have tested positive, reopened on Tuesday.
“We have taken the impact of COVID-19 to the area, and the ongoing threat to our associates and customers, very seriously and have not hesitated to close our Abington, Quincy and Worcester stores,” said Eddie Bostic, Walmart’s regional general manager for Massachusetts, in a release. “With that in mind, we have decided to temporarily close our store in Avon and will once again close our store in Abington.”
The Abington store was closed last Thursday, April 30, for what was described as a preventative cleaning. A Walmart spokesperson at the time told the Abington News that there was no COVID-19 outbreak among store employees.
“Correct. We had planned earlier this week to temporarily close both the Abington and Worcester stores today for cleaning,” the spokesperson said at the time.
Walmart’s decision to close the Abington store came as a surprise to town health officials. Abington Health Agent Marty Golighty said he spoke to a store manager yesterday, and there was no indication the store would be closing.
Walmart has not said how many employees in the Abington store have already tested positive, but did disclose in a release that one employee tested positive after last week’s cleaning.
Golightly said he was aware some store employees had tested positive but felt that overall “we’ve not been getting the full story.”
Golightly said the town had not officially been notified of the problem by the state Departmemt of Public Health because the amount of cases did not qualify as a “cluster,” which would have triggered reporting requirements, and that all the employees who tested positive live in Brockton or Randolph, not Abington.
Abington News has reached out to DPH for more information.
Both Golightly and Board of Health Chairman Chris Schultz said they feel the state should have been in contact with the town.
“I’m not sure what their threshold for a cluster is, but maybe that’s something that should be reconsidered,” said Schultz. “Personally, I think a head’s up would have been in order.”
Golightly said the store likely won’t reopen until Sunday at the earliest, and not until the town ensures it is in compliance.
“We’ll be doing a reopening inspection,” he said.
Golightly and Schultz over the past few days had attempted to tamp scuttlebutt around town of an outbreak amongst store employees.
“Since DPH didn’t set it up as cluster, I have no doubt that there were quite a few infections among Walmart associates … as far as I know, they were just doing a cleaning closure,” Golightly said at the board’s meeting Monday night.
Schultz said the board was acting on the best information they had. “It would have been helpful if we received accurate information to work with,” he said.
This is a developing news story. This article will be updated throughout the day.