31 Costco workers test positive for COVID-19 across Santa Clara County

Thirty-one workers have tested positive for coronavirus across four different Santa Clara County Costco stores in recent weeks, prompting an investigation, health officials said Thursday.

The largest cluster of cases was reported at the Sunnyvale store at 150 Lawrence Station Rd., where 13 employees tested positive last week, according to Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, leader of the county’s testing task force. Another eight employees fell ill at the San Jose Senter Road store, plus six at a Gilroy store and four at a Mountain View location.

Per the county’s definition of a workplace cluster — three or more cases reported within two weeks — officials have launched an investigation to inspect each store and trace the patients’ contacts.

“It looks like most of these cases came through their regular day-to-day activities and getting infected outside, as opposed to getting infected inside or infecting each other,” Fenstersheib said. “We’re not done with that investigation, so that’s not the last word on it, but that’s the way it looks.”

The Gilroy, Sunnyvale and San Jose sites met all distancing and cleaning standards for the customer areas when inspected by the department this week. Officials made a few “minimal” recommendations for the employee-only areas, Fenstersheib said, but he could not provide details on those recommendations. The Mountain View location had not been inspected as of Thursday afternoon.

All stores remained open to customers; Fenstersheib emphasized that people should feel as comfortable shopping in the stores as any other public location following hygiene guidelines. Costco did not respond to a request for comment.

Essential workers at grocery stores around the Bay Area have been hit hard by coronavirus. Eight workers at a Trader Joe’s in San Jose tested positive for the virus earlier this month, prompting a deep-cleaning of the facility and widespread employee testing. Meanwhile in Oakland, a dozen workers at Cardenas Markets in Fruitvale tested positive for coronavirus in May. The supermarket chain also reported other isolated cases in East San Jose, Hayward, and Pomona locations, among others.

With a few hundred employees at each store, the Costco infections are reflective of coronavirus’s broader community spread, Fenstersheib said. But their workers still face a bigger threat from COVID-19.

“Frontline workers are at higher risk — they’re in retail locations and have people facing them all the time,” Fenstersheib said. “We hope that most people do wear their masks and that people follow social distancing, but it doesn’t always occur.”

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