Breckenridge City Market outbreak grows to 18 as some employees worry about going to work
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add context to Sara Lopez’s quote about the safety of shopping at the store. The risk of getting the novel coronavirus at the store is low as long as people are following public health guidelines.
BRECKENRIDGE — An outbreak of 18 cases of the novel coronavirus at the City Market in Breckenridge has left some employees feeling uneasy about their safety at work.
Summit County Public Health announced April 29 an initial outbreak of eight cases at the store and increased that number to 17 on May 7. On Tuesday, Summit County Nurse Manager Sara Lopez said another probable case has been identified.
Those who tested positive have been asked to self-isolate, and their close contacts have been quarantined. For the other employees, who have tested negative and aren’t deemed close contacts, the message from management is clear: keep quiet and continue working.
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Two people who are connected to the store have shared their experiences with the Summit Daily News on the condition they be granted anonymity to protect the jobs of those working at the store.
One woman, who has family that works at the store, said workers are being told to not talk with anyone about what is happening at the store or they could lose their jobs.
“I think it’s very dangerous for the employees and for the community,” she said about the outbreak.
She believes the store should be closed for at least a few days so everyone can be tested at the same time and then reopened once the results from those tests are in.
The county has decided not to close the store because City Market has followed all of the recommendations outlined by public health officials, Summit County Communications Director Julie Sutor said.
The county has designated the email firstname.lastname@example.org to field concerns about the virus in the community.
“Any employee or any member of the public can report any concerns they have to the county,” Julie Sutor said. “We take all of those complaints and concerns very seriously.”
“To shut down an essential business and remove grocery shopping from the entire Breckenridge area, with the exception of a couple small places where people can get groceries, that would be extremely disruptive to that community,” Sutor said.
County public health officials continue to say the risk to the public is low as long as people are following all preventative measures such as wearing masks, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and not touching their face.
“There’s really not a lot of risk for somebody going shopping,” Lopez said. “Is there no risk? We can’t say that. I think the store is putting into place many measures, as much as they can be doing.”
The county has tested 90 of the store’s 152 employees, Lopez said. While the county doesn’t plan to provide more mass testing, City Market is providing employees with resources for how to be tested, Lopez said.
“We can’t force people to get a test,” Lopez said.
A man who works at the store and has tested positive for the virus said the store managers have been great to him since he first received the test.
“They were really good about it,” he said. “For me being out of work for this long, I’ve been supported really well by Kroger.”
Since the outbreak, City Market has taken precautions by cleaning the store, closing the break room and requiring that everyone wear masks. They are sanitizing carts before and after each use, keeping cashiers behind a plexiglass barrier, implementing one-way traffic flows and marking 6-foot measurements in checkout areas.
The man said the biggest problem in the store was its break room.
“It’s a very small break room,” he said. “In that break room is about a 10-by-8 space with a table in the middle. At any given time, you have maybe four, five, six employees sitting in there.”
The woman said the store’s attempts to require everyone to wear masks haven’t gone well.
“Some customers, they refuse to wear (masks), and they let them in anyway,” she said. “This happens every single day. So that’s not going to stop.”
The man said he also noticed people not wearing masks at the store before he went into quarantine, but he doesn’t blame those people for getting him sick.
“There were still folks around the city who did not want to abide by the rules or just didn’t have a way to have an issued mask,” he said.
The store has asked everyone who is considered a close contact of those who tested positive to quarantine for 14 days. Lopez said the county is using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of close contact, which is someone who was within 6 feet of a positive case for more than 10 minutes.
Lopez said the county determines close contacts by interviewing people who test positive. She said the county asks patients about their family members, roommates, friends at work or anyone who they might have hung out with for a prolonged period of time.
“In these instances, it’s a collaboration between what the person tells us and the information we can get from the employer,” Lopez said.
The woman said all employees should be considered close contacts.
“Everybody’s working together. Everybody’s touching everything,” she said.
The man said it’s possible for workers to maintain a 6-foot distance, but it’s going to take a lot of effort and require workers to rethink the way they do things.
“It’s possible,” he said. “You want to do the customer service thing and help that person and walk up to them. Nowadays, that’s asking for trouble.”
Employees who don’t feel safe going to work are not offered paid leave, the woman said. Only people who are deemed close contacts are able to miss work while still being paid.
“They’re making people work,” she said. “They’re like, ‘If you want to go, OK, but you will take vacation time.’ It seems like they are putting business before people.”
Sutor said it’s important to note that anyone can get the virus when they are out in public.
“This virus is circulating in the community right now,” Sutor said. “We know that to be true. We have continued to see new cases. People should assume they will encounter this virus, and that’s why all of these protective measures are important.”
Lopez said the investigation is ongoing and won’t be resolved until 28 days without a new case. Representatives from City Market did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Also Tuesday, Lopez said the City Market store in Dillon has had three cases among its workers, two of which are probable, meaning they have not been tested but have symptoms. The county does not yet consider the cases at the Dillon store to be an outbreak since it’s likely the employees got the virus from an outside source.
The Lowe’s store in Silverthorne also has experienced an outbreak of three cases. The store has put measures in place to contain the spread of the virus.
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