COVID cases reported at Sonoma Market

Third local market to confirm one or more employees testing positive since late August.|

Following similar announcements in recent weeks from Sonoma’s Safeway and Whole Foods, a spokesperson for Sonoma Market on West Napa Street confirmed on Oct. 5 that six employees have tested positive for COVID-19. [Editor’s note: While the Index-Tribune has not, and does not plan to report on confirmed positive test results at every Sonoma business, it does report on cases at service businesses with employees who interact heavily with customers].

A current employee of the Nugget Market subsidiary in Sonoma reached out on Oct. 3, alerting the Index-Tribune of confirmed positive coronavirus tests within the store and several employees awaiting test results.

“I think the public should know this given the quantity of people (especially elderly) that shop there daily,” said the employee, who asked not to be named.

The employee also expressed concern that staff members were not notified individually about the cases, instead a memo was posted on the store’s communication board.

However, Sonoma Market manager Cody Moody said that further communication efforts were taken.

“All employees check our ’First 5’ message board when they arrive and we also held an employee town hall each time,” Moody said. “We also called or met with any team members who could have been directly exposed and sent them home, provided testing options and instructed them to self-quarantine until they received their results.”

Nugget Market Chief Impact Officer Kate Stille told the Index-Tribune on Oct. 5 that, as of today, arrangements are being made for all store associates to be tested “out of an abundance of caution,” news that the employee who contacted the Index-Tribune was not yet aware of. Stille said that Nugget will pay for all the testing.

Store management will be notified of all results, positive or negative and, Stille said, if an employee’s test is positive, they will receive paid time off.

“We take the coronavirus pandemic very seriously,” said Stille.

“As has been required since mid-March, all associates are required to wash their hands frequently, maintain social distancing and wear face coverings at all times and stay home if they are sick,” she said. Stille said that temperatures are taken at the beginning of each associate’s shift. The store is sanitized throughout each day, and there is a nightly deep cleaning.

The employee who contacted the Index-Tribune also raised concerns over whether the proper cleaning was being conducted.

Moody said that the third party company that cleans the store each night while it is closed did an extra deep cleaning with “hospital grade disinfectant” overnight after each new case was confirmed.

But it’s a group effort, staying safe, says Moody. He frequently takes to the store intercom to say, “We need your help protecting our associates and our families so we can keep feeding yours.”

Sonoma Market is the third local grocery chain to confirm COVID cases among its staff in recent weeks.

A spokesperson for the Safeway supermarket chain confirmed multiple confirmed cases of COVID among its staff in its West Napa Street store on Aug. 27. A spokesperson stressed at the time that the Sonoma store has been and continues to go through multiple cycles of cleaning, sanitizing and/or disinfecting processes daily.

A Sonoma Whole Foods team member was diagnosed with COVID-19 the week of Sept. 15 and “a comprehensive response plan” was activated that included cleaning, contact tracing and a formal notification processes, according to a company statement at that time.

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