Five San Diego Food Handlers Test Positive for COVID-19; Two Sprouts Employees

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San Diego County health officials Sunday said five food handlers have tested positive for COVID-19 -- four restaurant employees and a grocery store employee in Escondido. Additionally, two Sprouts Farmers Market employees in Carlsbad have tested positive, according to the company.

There was no further information about the four restaurant workers but the grocery store employee works at the Albertsons on W. Valley Parkway in Escondido. The store said the worker is receiving medical care.

The individual has not worked at the store since March 24, Albertsons said.

"The store has been through multiple cycles of our enhanced cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting process since that day. In an abundance of caution, last night, we conducted a thorough cleaning and disinfection with guidance from third-party sanitation experts," an Albertsons spokesperson told NBC 7 on Saturday.

"Following CDC guidelines, our Crisis Response Team may recommend that additional members of the store team self-quarantine. These employees will be eligible to receive up to 14 days of quarantine pay."  

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Albertsons did the right thing by closing, alerting county environmental health officials, following sanitation protocols, and then reopening to customers.

Dr. Eric McDonald, the county's medical director of epidemiology, said co-workers of the Albertsons employee who display any symptoms of the coronavirus infection will be sent home, but there were no tests pending in this case.

"If you have a sick worker, they must stay home," Fletcher said, urging employers to call (858) 505-6814 to report any sick workers.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher comments on the Escondido Albertsons after a worker tested positive for COVID-19.

Two employees at the Sprouts Farmers Market at 2618 El Camino Real in Carlsbad have also tested positive for COVID-19, according to the company. The individuals were last in the store on March 15 and 17, respectively.

"We inform other team members that may have come into close contact with the affected team member and ask that they self-quarantine," Sprouts said online. "Team members who are asked to self-quarantine are eligible to receive up to 14 days of quarantine pay. We also conduct extensive cleaning and sanitizing of the entire store to minimize any risk of surface transmission."

Health officials also stressed that there is no evidence of COVID-19 association with food, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Fletcher also said that the county is increasing inspections of the many food facilities in the region.

As for Albertsons, they said, "The store will remain open, and we will continue to follow an enhanced cleaning and disinfection process in every department."

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