DANVERS, Mass. -- McKinnon's Market and Super Butcher Shop has closed after an unspecified number of store employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus. It was unclear if the store would be open Wednesday.

The store announced the closure on its Facebook page Monday, at the end of the long Memorial Day weekend, calling it a "difficult decision."

"The closure will allow us to have all employees tested and cleared to work, and allow us to have the store professionally sanitized, and then deep cleaned," the store said in its Monday posting.

In an interview Tuesday, Eric Boucher, the store's marketing director, offered little new information, saying "the statement speaks for itself."

"We've been in touch with the public health nurse in Danvers and taking direction from her," Boucher said. He noted the market is looking to go "above and beyond" with its precautions, and "hopefully have everyone safe and everyone shopping with us."

Once the store is back open, he said, employees will have their temperatures checked when they arrive to work and will be monitored for any symptoms of COVID-19. The company also has locations in Everett, Salem, New Hampshire and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

While Danvers town officials said there is no risk to the greater community, it is unclear how many employees were infected with the virus, whether they showed symptoms or how long they remained at work.

Boucher said he could not say how many employees tested positive for COVID-19, and town officials said they were not able to confirm specific cases due to privacy concerns.

"We have been in communication with McKinnon's about their recent decision to close and conduct a deep cleaning of their Danvers location," officials said in a statement posted on the town website. "We have found McKinnon's to be following all guidance, and do not recommend that persons who entered McKinnon's quarantine for 14 days."

Statewide, information on the spread of the virus among grocery store and food service workers has been difficult to find.

Two North Shore grocery store workers have died due to COVID-19 in recent months.

On April 4, 59-year-old Vitalina Williams of Salem, who worked part-time at the Market Basket in Salem for 11 years and full-time at a Walmart store in Lynn, died after being diagnosed with COVID-19. At the time, a company spokesperson said two other Market Basket employees had tested positive and were self-quarantining.

On April 15, Leon Marin, a 53-year-old kitchen worker from Lynn at the Whole Foods in Swampscott, died from COVID-19, according to various news reports.

"The question of how many grocery store workers have been diagnosed positive for COVID-19 is an excellent one, but difficult to attain," Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, the executive director of the Dorchester-based nonprofit Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, or MassCOSH, said in an email. "The state does not collect such data and the organization has to rely on its partners for that kind of reporting."

As of April 28, 83 United Food and Commercial Workers members had tested positive for COVID-19, she said, including 57 Stop & Shop workers. It's likely those figures have increased.

In a May 11 letter to Gov. Charlie Baker and the state's Re-Opening Advisory Board, MassCOSH called for enforceable health and safety standards for workers with the reopening. The letter noted that "in one example of many, eighty-one workers at a Walmart in Worcester were sickened with COVID-19."

"We know of at least two other grocery worker fatalities," Sugerman-Brozan said, "one in Belmont and one in Quincy. Both cases we found out about through the media because of the lack of data from the state."

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Saturday, July 11, 2020
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