Two UNFI employees return to work after COVID-19 recovery

Some employees go on self-quarantine

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United Natural Foods' Gilroy distribution center opened in 2016. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Two employees at United Natural Foods’ Gilroy distribution center that tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered and returned to work, the company confirmed.

UNFI spokesperson Jeff Swanson said the positive test was communicated to all employees at the facility, and company officials used a “contact tracing protocol” to identify those who were in contact with the individuals. As a result, a small number of employees have gone on self-quarantine.

“We’ve been leaders here at the Gilroy DC implementing strong safety measures and protocols and continuing to evolve these protocols to address new considerations from the CDC, federal authorities, or our own preferred safety measures,” Swanson said.

UNFI’s 425,000-square-foot Gilroy distribution center, which opened in 2016 at 6351 Cameron Blvd., employs more than 100 people. UNFI is the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor of natural, organic and specialty food in North America, with Whole Foods being one of its primary customers.

Once COVID-19 began spreading in the community, Swanson said UNFI enhanced its cleaning and safety protocols, such as educating its employees on social distancing and reinforcing hygiene practices. UNFI also hired Safety-Kleen to conduct deep sanitizations of the facility.

Employees are recommended to wear face masks and gloves, and UNFI provided them a $10 stipend to purchase their own masks while waiting for supplies to arrive, according to Swanson.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides a list of guidelines for food distribution facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The FDA states that although there is no evidence of the virus being transmitted through food or packaging, facilities are encouraged to “re-double their cleaning and sanitation efforts.”

UNFI is also assisting its associates by covering all COVID-19 testing expenses through its benefit offerings and providing paid time off for any employee dealing with a COVID-19 illness or as a result of a UNFI or government quarantine, according to Swanson. 

“We care greatly for our associates, our customers and our hometown communities,” he said. “We’re thankful our associates have recovered. We continue to stay vigilant in our efforts to keep our associates safe and our DC open and delivering on the important role of serving the grocery retail industry.”

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