If there had to be a case of COVID-19 in a grocery store, Phil Leboudec describes the situation at his Virgil valu-mart as the “best case scenario.”
The staff person who tested positive has fully recovered, after experiencing only very mild symptoms, says Leboudec.
The employee had worked at the grocery store on March 26, but that shift was outside of store hours, and with no contact with other staff or the public. The last date the employee would have had any contact with anyone in the store was March 23, he says.
The staff member took a self-assessment test online, and being an essential worker, was referred for testing, Leboudec believes.
He learned of the positive test Sunday evening. A team of professional cleaners, organized by Loblaws, was sent in overnight, the store was sanitized “from top to bottom,” and Leboudec was given a “full sign-off from all authorities as necessary” to open the store Monday.
“I didn’t make the decision that it was okay to open,” he emphasizes. It was made after an investigation by health officials that determined there was no risk to staff or the public.
“If I thought for one minute that this posed a threat to staff, or to anyone else, we wouldn’t be open.”
There are no staff members with any symptoms, he added. “We have no issues here.”
The employee who tested positive is not being identified for reasons of privacy, Leboudec says, but had no history of travel. “I’m guessing it was from someone who travelled who came into the store.”
Despite the strong messages from all levels of government about self-isolation for the large number of returning travellers, including snowbirds coming back from wintering in the U.S., Leboudec and other retailers have been concerned that not all are heeding that message.
Loblaws has instituted several measures to ensure the safety of staff and the public at all stores, including plexiglass at check-out counters, limits to the number of customers in the store, and signs directing customers as they move through the store to allow for physical distancing.
The public is also being encouraged to shop online, and there are volunteers in the community who are willing to deliver. Residents are also asked to send only one person in a family to shop, and to limit visits to the grocery store.
For a list of volunteers offering community assistance, including food delivery, visit https://notl.org/content/community-assistance.
From the moment Leboudec heard of the positive test until the all-clear was given to open, a protocol kicked in that came from Loblaws and public health, he says.
Before opening, he spoke to his staff to ensure they were comfortable with returning to work. “If they’re not worried, our customers shouldn’t be worried,” says Leboudec.
But this does, he says, drive home the message, #stayhomenotl.