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New Haven Issues Final Warning Letter to Walmart Over COVID-19 Violations

NBC Universal, Inc.

The city of New Haven has issued a warning to Walmart in New Haven after several COVID-19 violations. The city’s department of health has given the company 72 hours to present a plan to address the issues and warned that Walmart will be shut down and face legal action if it is found to be in violation again.

The New Haven Health Department issued a final warning letter to Walmart at 315 Foxon Boulevard on Thursday.

According to the letter the City of New Haven Department of Health sent to the president and CEO, there were several complaints about violations of COVID-19 guidelines, including employees not wearing face masks or not wearing face masks properly, customers not wearing face masks and the store being overcapacity.

Inspectors followed up with staff, visited the store and gave stern warnings, according to the letter.

The most recent complaint was on Nov. 2, in which an employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Department of Health. When the city tried numerous times to collect information from staff for contact tracing, there was a delay in responding, according to the department of health. It was also brought to the city’s attention that other employees might have tested positive for COVID-19 cases in the previous weeks.

City officials said Walmart was issued a final warning letter rather than being ordered to close because it is defined as an essential business and many residents rely on it for groceries and other household supplies.

The following violations were found:

  • Failure to ensure that employees are wearing face masks
  • Failure to ensure that employees are wearing face masks properly
  • Failure to ensure patrons follow proper face mask protocols
  • Failure to enforce capacity limits
  • Failure to follow State testing and contact tracing protocols
  • Discrepancies in return to work protocols
  • Lack of proper disinfecting protocols
  • Failure of iPad synchronizing for capacity tracing
  • Inadequate training of staff for COVID-19 sector guidelines

Walmart provided NBC Connecticut with the following statement:

“We take our role as an essential retailer seriously and are doing our part to help protect associates and customers from COVID-19. We are working closely with the health department to address their concerns and will continue to do so.”

Prior to the warning being issued, Walmart told NBC Connecticut they have been taking several measures to ensure the safety of customers and employees at the store, including:

  • Enacted deep-cleaning and sanitizing protocols with guidance from the CDC and Walmart’s Chief Medical Officer.
  • Conducting health screenings and temperature checks on our associates prior to them beginning their shifts. Should an associate have a fever (100 degrees or higher) or answer “yes” to our screening questionnaire, he/she will be asked to return home until symptoms subside or they go through necessary COVID-19 protocols. 
  • We are requiring associates and customers to wear masks.
  • Posted signs at store entrances reminding customers of the importance of wearing masks.
  • Installed plexiglass barriers (sneeze guards) at our checkout lanes and pharmacy areas. (photos attached)
  • Installed floor decals at the entrances and in checkout lanes that show exactly how far six feet is, making it easier for customers to judge the proper social distance from each other.

In the event we do have a confirmed case at any of our stores, we are working with those associates and offering guidance and time needed to receive medical care. Associates have been encouraged to prioritize their health and stay home if feeling sick. We also implemented a COVID-19 emergency leave policy (extended through January 2021) for all associates who feel unable or uncomfortable coming to work.

Walmart was given 72 hours to come up with a corrective action plan relating to violations and let the city know how protocols will be implemented and followed, disinfecting protocols, training plans and protocol for capacity adherence, employee illness and COVID-19 reporting protocols, training protocol for employee personal protection and adherence to mask use, contact tracing protocol a list of point of contacts for the establishment.

“Please know that I take these matters very seriously and if you are found to be in violation again, your establishment will be shut down without warning and you will face legal action. This letter serves as your FINAL WARNING,” the letter says.

“We are confident that the store managers at Wal-Mart will implement the needed measures to address the violations. The Health Department stands ready to work with this establishment. But if they will not take action and make the needed changes to keep our residents and their own staff and customers safe, then we will," Health Director Maritza Bond said in a statement.

Through an FOI request, NBC Connecticut obtained the Health Department’s citywide COVID-19 complaints for businesses, which dates back to April. Among the complaints submitted by the public, Walmart is listed multiple times for concerns about employees and customers not wearing masks, and concerns for crowding. Health department staff documented their follow-up visits with store management, which were outlined in the final warning letter.

The health department has issued at least 15 letters to businesses, according to NBC Connecticut’s public records request. Of those, seven businesses or restaurants were ordered to close. Three were open in the wrong phase, and another two were allowed to reopen following a corrective action plan.

The remaining eight were warning letters issued to neighborhood minimarts and grocery stores, most for mask violations ordering customers and employees to wear “facemasks or other face cloth covering that completely covers the nose and mouth.”

Walmart is now included in that number with a final warning to submit a corrective action plan by Sunday.

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