Millions of U.S. shoppers visit Walmart stores every day. But like most retailers, this company has had its fair share of problems over the past year that have impacted loyal customers. In October, Walmart had to issue a warning over the sale of a recalled spray that had been linked to two deaths. And just two weeks ago, a policy change kept thousands of customers from being able to use their insurance at the retailer’s pharmacies. Now, Walmart has sent out another warning to shoppers about an issue affecting several stores across the country. Read to find out more about the latest problem Walmart is experiencing.
If you’ve recently pulled up to your local Walmart to find it closed, you’re not alone. A spokesperson for the company told Patch on Dec. 28 that Walmart has been temporarily closing stores in the U.S. to allow more time for increased sanitizing between busier days, especially following the holidays.
“Everything we’re doing is for the well-being of our associates and the thousands of customers we serve daily, and in consideration of guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health experts,” a Walmart spokesperson told the news outlet. According to Patch, a third-party company will be in charge of the cleanings and few select staff members will be working to restock empty shelves and take inventory during the break.
Officials from a Walmart store in Olympia Fields, Illinois, told Patch that their store would be closed from the afternoon of Dec. 28 to the morning of Dec. 30 due to a rise in COVID cases. But this is not the only location that has been temporarily shuttered. In Louisiana, a Walmart in Kenner closed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 29 and will not reopen until Dec. 31 at 6 a.m., NBC-affiliate WDSU 6 reported. Other temporary closures recently reported include Walmart stores in Aurora, Ohio; Hialeah, Florida; and Bainbridge Township, Ohio.
“As you know, several areas across the country have begun seeing a renewed increase in positive COVID-19 cases, and we want to assist health officials working against the pandemic … This will allow extra time for a third-party specialist to further sanitize the store and will also give our associates additional time to restock shelves and prepare the store to once again serve the community,” Walmart said in a statement to Fox-affiliate WJW, concerning the Aurora Walmart closing.
A Walmart Supercenter in Linden, New Jersey, was also closed to shoppers on Dec. 28, according to NJ Advance Media. While Walmart told the news outlet that this closure was part of the “ongoing company-initiated program” to temporarily shutter various locations for extra sanitation, a worker for this store told NBC4 New York that the real cause was an employee outbreak.
According to the worker, more than 90 employees at the Linden Walmart were infected with COVID. A Walmart spokeswoman told NJ Advance Media that the number of cases reported by NBC4 were “extremely over-estimated and factually wrong,” but was unable to provide a specific number of infections, citing privacy concerns.
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While Walmart no longer has a mask mandate in place at all of its stores, the company said it is following CDC guidance at this time, “which includes fully vaccinated people wearing masks in public indoor settings in counties with substantial or high transmission,” per WDSU.
The CDC updates its data on transmission rates weekly. Most of the U.S. is showing high rates of transmission per the agency’s guidelines, according to USA Today. But some of the hardest hit states include New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Overall, 87.62 percent of U.S. counties are exhibiting high community transmission, 7.42 percent have substantial transmission, and only 3.41 percent and 1.43 percent are seeing moderate or low transmission, respectively.
“We will continue working closely with elected and local health officials, adjusting how we serve the community while also keeping the health and safety of our customers and associates in mind,” Walmart said in a statement.