Publix COVID-19

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Two Gainesville-area Publix Supermarket employees have tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first known positive cases of the virus at the essential business in Alachua County.

One of the workers is employed at the Williston Plaza store located off I-75 at 5200 SW 34th St., while the other works in Tower Square, located at 5801 SW 75th St., company spokesperson Maria Brous confirmed Saturday. Citing medical privacy laws, she declined to give additional details about when the employees tested positive or if they’re self-quarantining at home. 

Per company policy, Publix employees who test positive for the virus are being provided 14 days paid leave to self-quarantine and recover, a company statement read. They’re also notifying and offering up to two weeks leave with pay for workers who have been in close contact with an employee diagnosed with COVID-19 who may need to self-quarantine. 

An Alligator reporter who shopped at the Williston Plaza store Wednesday said no employees were wearing masks. 

Starting Monday, Publix will require its employees to wear face coverings while at work and ask workers who don’t normally wear gloves to voluntarily do so, Brous wrote in an email to the Alligator. The company is providing face coverings for all employees until supplies run out. Once supplies run out, employees are required to provide their own face coverings and customer service and pharmacy associates can use their own supply of gloves. 

Store employees will have to sanitize and reuse the face coverings provided to them, Brous confirmed, noting that they’ve received cleaning and sanitizing instructions to do so. 

Brous declined to say how much of their supply of gloves and face coverings will be distributed to Alachua County or how long they expect this supply to last.  

In an effort to combat the virus, the company has adjusted store hours to 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. to allow more time for disinfecting measures and has introduced one-way aisles to improve social distancing, according to the statement. Brous did not specify what disinfecting measures are being used, but according to the company’s Coronavirus FAQ page, Publix is following CDC guidelines while focusing on high-touch surfaces and designating an associate to clean pin pads. 

In Alachua County, only one person per 750 square feet is allowed to enter a store. The average Publix can be between 40,000 to 60,000 square feet.

“As an essential service provider, the health and well-being of our customers, associates and communities are our top priority,” the statement read. “We are proud of how our dedicated associates are taking care of our customers and each other through this unprecedented and challenging time.”

COVID-19 in long-term care facilities 

Two long-term care facilities in Alachua County have residents or staff infected with COVID-19, the Florida Department of Health confirmed Saturday. 

Oak Hammock at UF, which is located at 5100 SW 25th Blvd., and Parklands Care Center, located at 1000 SW 16th Ave., each have confirmed cases of the virus, the state health department reported. The Alligator previously reported a total of 12 cases at Oak Hammock among six residents and six staff at the facility. It’s unknown how many infected residents or staff are at Parklands Care Center. 

Alachua County has a total of 21 confirmed cases of the virus among residents or staff in long-term care facilities, according to the latest report from the state health department. While no residents in the county have died of COVID-related complications, 1 in 5 Florida COVID-19 deaths are residents of long-term care facilities, The Miami Herald reported. 

After refusing for weeks to identify the long-term care facilities across the state with positive COVID-19 cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his plan to have the state health department release a list of the facilities during a press conference this afternoon. This decision came on the heels of The Miami Herald and other organizations across the state threatening litigation against the state for not releasing this information.

DeSantis announces extension of online schooling

In his afternoon press conference, the governor also announced that all Florida K-12 schools will remain online for the remainder of the school year. 

The state has changed its projected date to re-open schools several times during the past month. Previously, the state announced that schools will be closed through April 15, then Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran announced that schools will remain shuttered through May 1 to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

Despite schools being closed, the Alachua County school district is continuing to provide free meals for children 18 and under at varying times and locations across the county. The children don’t have to be enrolled as students in order to receive the free meals.

Contact Alex DeLuca at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @AlexLDeLuca.