CALIFORNIA—On Friday, May 1, the Ralphs supermarket chain announced that it would offer take-home COVID-19 tests to all 20,000 employees in Southern California.
That Friday morning, prior to the announcement, employees protested outside a Ralphs outlet on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, demanding the franchise to provide further protection for its workers. As of May 1, 21 employees of this store alone have tested positive for the virus.
John Votava, spokesperson of Ralphs California, informed Canyon News that the decision to “provide testing for associates” was “planned several days in advance” by Kroger, Ralphs’s parent company.
KTLA claimed that May 1 protestors called on the store to take more aggressive action when staff test positive for the virus and ramp up efforts to protect workers. When Canyon News asked if Ralphs would be following up on these demands in any way, Votava stated that “we treat every case as if it is a positive test. That sets off a chain of activities that includes, but not limited to, making sure the associate self isolates, ensure any other associates that work in close proximity isolates, reporting cases to county health departments, closing the store early and performing a thorough cleaning overnight by a CDC-approved third party cleaning company.”
Votava mentioned that the total number of cases among Ralphs associates amounts to .3% of all 20,000. This translates to 60 employees.
Kroger Health, the healthcare arm of Kroger, recently expanded its free COVID-19 drive-thru testing program to 12 states. Votava said that “at this time, testing cannot be performed at Ralphs locations due to California laws prohibiting Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians from administering COVID-19 tests”, but added that “Dr Linh Youn, Ralphs’ health & wellness/ pharmacy merchandiser has been invited to participate on a task force with the California Pharmacists Association to help get that law changed.”
Anyone with concerns about public health conditions in businesses should file a complaint here or call the LA County tip line at 888-700-9995.
The full statement sent by Votava about what Ralphs is doing to protect its associates, customers, and communities can be found below.
Testing for Associates
Ralphs will begin offering testing to associates, based on symptoms and medical need, likely in mid-May. Tests in California will leverage a combination of at-home kits and public testing locations. Details about testing options are coming soon.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ralphs has taken extensive measures to safeguard our associates, customers and supply chain, ensuring local communities always have access to fresh, affordable food.
Below are the measures we are implementing and continually updating to protect the safety of our associates, customers and our communities:
- Gloves and face coverings provided for every associate, every shift
- Plexiglass shields installed at checkout stands
- Educational floor decals to ensure physical distancing
- Handwashing and cleaning high-touch areas every 30 minutes
- Limiting store capacity to 25% of normal (1 person for every 180 square feet of store space)
- Increased store sanitation processes when restocking
- Mandatory temperature and symptom checks for associates prior to starting their shifts
- Communication with all employees to review, confirm and reinforce safety and social distancing best practices
With regular visits from County Health Departments, we’ve affirmed that our processes continue to live up to our high safety standards in protecting our more than 20,000 associates and the millions of customers that visit our 188 stores each week.
Additionally, to thank and reward our associate heroes on the frontline Ralphs has extended our Hero Bonus, a $2 per hour premium above the standard rate of pay for hourly associates through Saturday, May 16. The Hero Bonus went into effect on March 31 following the Appreciation Bonus of $150-300 Ralphs paid to all eligible frontline associates announced on March 21.