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Worker at H.B. Whole Foods Market tests positive for coronavirus; store remains open

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An employee of the Whole Foods Market at the Bella Terra mall in Huntington Beach, pictured Thursday, tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the company said.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

An employee at a Whole Foods Market in Huntington Beach has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

A company spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that the employee works at the store at 7881 Edinger Ave., in the Bella Terra mall, and is now in quarantine. She did not release further details, including when the employee last worked, because of privacy concerns.

While many businesses are closed or having employees work remotely in response to a sweeping statewide stay-at-home order to try to control the spread of the virus, grocery stores are considered essential services.

The Bella Terra Whole Foods store remains open.

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“The safety of our team members and customers is our top priority and we are diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities,” the Austin, Texas-based grocer said in a statement. “We’ve been working closely with our store team members and are supporting the diagnosed team member. ... Out of an abundance of caution, an additional cleaning and disinfection has been performed, on top of our current enhanced sanitation measures.”

The Orange County Health Care Agency on Thursday reported that the number of coronavirus cases countywide has increased to 256, up from 187 the day before. Health officials say they will begin releasing city-by-city figures Friday.

The total number of people tested by the Health Care Agency’s Public Health Lab and by commercial labs stands at 3,605, up from 2,442 on Wednesday, the agency said.

“An increase in reported cases is one of the factors of increased testing,” Dr. Nichole Quick, the county health officer, said in a statement. “This serves as a reminder of the importance of staying at home and social distancing when leaving the household for essential activities or to work at an essential business.”

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Whole Foods employees in New York and Louisiana also have tested positive for the virus, according to published reports.

On Wednesday, 14 state attorneys general — including California’s Xavier Becerra — signed a letter to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey requesting that the companies’ employee sick leave policy be expanded beyond the two weeks of paid leave available to quarantined or diagnosed employees. Whole Foods is an Amazon subsidiary.

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Updates:
3:03 PM, Mar. 26, 2020: This article was originally published at 2:36 p.m. and has been updated with additional information.

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