Retailers, fast-food chains and customer service-related companies face a new challenge as the coronavirus outbreak spreads in the U.S.: Some of their employees are getting sick.
Walmart became one of the latest U.S. companies to assure it had a sick employee on Monday. The female employee works in Cynthiana, a small town about 30 miles northeast of Lexington, Kentucky. She became the state’s first resident to test positive for COVID-19.
The coronavirus outbreak has changed how consumer-facing brands do business in current weeks. Starbucks and Dunkin’ embargoed reusable mugs. McDonald’s increased up the frequency of cleaning. Some Taco Bell and Wendy’s franchises are using tamper-proof packaging to keep delivery drivers from swiping fries. Limits on the purchase of hand sanitizers and some cleaning products are being noticed to keep items on the shelves. It is wiping out the checkout lanes and touchscreens every 30 minutes, reports CNBC.
Even after the preventive measures, companies can increase the number of sick employees, said family medicine doctor and human resources consultant Dr. David Zieg.
"We can take the precautions we need, but the cases will pop up," he said. "This is the nature of this particular virus."
The number of cases in the US is growing so fast, the number of cases is changing momentarily and local officials are having trouble retaining. A week ago there were about 100 cases in the United States. As of Tuesday afternoon, infections had peaked at 800 across the country.
The size and scope of some companies increase inequality. For example, Walmart has stores nationwide and is the nation's largest private employer with 1.5 million employees in the United States.
When he spoke about the first case in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear acknowledged Monday that employers may worry about facing stigma from customers who are fearful of the virus.
“For everybody who has been through that Walmart, I know it’s going to make you nervous,” Beshear said at a news conference, according to a report in the Lexington Herald Leader. “Just because you’ve been there doesn’t mean that you have the coronavirus. We have to stay calm.”