What to Know
- A New Jersey Walmart turned away customers Tuesday evening and will remain closed to the public on Wednesday after dozens of employees tested positive for COVID-19, a worker at the store said
- A spokesperson wouldn't confirm just how many cases had been confirmed at the store, but an employee said that more than 90 other workers caught COVID
- The store shutdown came the same day that mask mandates were reinstated in Paterson, East Orange and Hoboken, while lines for testing around the state grew seemingly as quickly as the case total
A New Jersey Walmart turned away customers Tuesday evening and will remain closed to the public on Wednesday after dozens of employees tested positive for COVID-19, a worker at the store said.
The Walmart on W Edgar Road in Linden closed at 2 p.m. on Tuesday "as part of an ongoing company-initiated program ... for a third-party specialist to further sanitize the store," the company said in a statement. A spokeswoman said that closing the store will also "give our associates additional time to restock and prepare the store," as it expects to reopen at 6 a.m. Thursday.
Word of the closure comes after a store employee appeared to turn people away at the front door Tuesday night, and other customers were greeted by closed doors that wouldn't open. When asked if the store was closed, the employee could be heard mentioning COVID to a customer who asked.
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An employee source told News 4 the number of infections was somewhere north of 90. A Walmart spokeswoman said that number was wrong and the real total was much lower -- but declined to give an accurate figure and referred questions to the local health department. The local health department said it did not have a total and referred questions back to the company.
Walmart spokeswoman Felicia McCranie said that the retail giant follows Centers for Disease Control guidance regarding mask-wearing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Employees at stores where state or local mask mandates are in effect are required to wear masks inside the facilities, McCranie said, and any unvaccinated workers must wear face coverings.
The store shutdown came the same day that mask mandates were reinstated in Paterson, East Orange and Hoboken, while lines for testing around the state grew seemingly as quickly as the case total. Paterson Mayor Andrew Sayegh is one of multiple mayors wishing the governor would make a statewide mask mandate once again.
"Yes, I would consider asking the governor. I was in contact with his office yesterday, so that's a phone call I will make," Mayor Sayegh said of requesting a statewide mandate.
Gov. Phil Murphy said that there were nearly 12,000 new positives on Tuesday, along with 48 confirmed COVID deaths. The state is taking action to reduce the number of workers in offices in order to reduce the risk of spread, having state employees report to offices on a hybrid basis through Jan. 10.
As a result of the rapid increase in cases, Paterson is one of many cities adding more testing sites, deploying four mobile units throughout the city. The two current sites there have been plagued by long lines before and after Christmas, as testing demands have skyrocketed.
A federal COVID testing center will soon open in East Orange, and while it isn't known how many staffers will be on hand or when exactly it will be operational, the goal is to test at least 1,000 a day, six days a week.