‘Every Day Is Frightening’: Working For Walmart Amid Covid-19 Crisis
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As U.S. health experts work to identify cases and track their transmission, grocery store employees in the U.S. say they are under constant scrutiny from management for the actions they’re taking. And as the coronavirus spreads on the road to Walmart, which has been in close contact with shoppers and employees, their work, and livelihoods, are under threat.
“I don’t think I’m going home tonight, and then tomorrow I’m probably going to work,” Angela Spicher, a Walmart associate in Ohio, told NPR. “Every day is frightening.”
Spicher is the mother of four, and her livelihood is on life support as the retail giant, which employs more than 1 million hourly and salaried employees at more than 1,000 stores, tries to stem a growing crisis with coronavirus.
Walmart, which had more than 12.5 million customers in the U.S. as of March 1, has nearly 4,000 employees who work at its stores. That’s up from about 2,500 at the beginning of the year in response to the pandemic. More than 5,500 of them work in its corporate office. An hour’s drive away, Walmart has opened a drive-thru testing center staffed by a few people wearing protective gear.
The company is scrambling to identify potential cases of the virus, including where they might be showing up. Walmart says its current testing capacity is at 6.7 million tests per year, but a spokesman says the company is planning to expand its capacity to about 11 million per year.
The company has not identified any confirmed cases of the virus on its own. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified more than 800 people who have had close contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.
The CDC currently says the vast majority of cases are mild. But there are several who have died in hospitals, some of them in intensive care units. In California, where the virus first showed up there, health officials report that it has killed more than half the adult patients who have been treated for the disease. Doctors in New York state have performed more than 2,100 tracheal intubations — the tube inserted into the wind