COVID-19 coronavirus Outbreak

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)

The Sam's Club bakery in Terre Haute temporarily closed last week after multiple bakery workers had to be quarantined due to exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, knowledgeable sources told the Tribune-Star.

Whether or not bakery workers actually tested positive for COVID-19 could not be confirmed on the record.

The Vigo County Health Department does not comment on specific cases unless there is a public health risk. A representative of Sam's Club corporate offices said it, too, does not comment on specifics and that information should come from health departments.

The bakery remained closed today.

Roni Elder, Vigo County Health Department spokeswoman, said she could not comment on a specific situation.

"If we thought the public had a reason to be concerned, we would release that information," Elder said. She added, "We're not finding that [COVID-19] can be transmitted through food."

Speaking in general, if a bakery worker tested positive for COVID-19, "We'd work with them to see who they were around and if it needed to close down ... or just a few people needed to be quarantined."

The health department would consider how closely bakery employees worked together and how much contact they had with the public.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, coronaviruses "are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food, it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety."

The CDC website further states, "It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

"In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging," the CDC website states.

Erin Hulliberger, who is with Sam’s Club corporate communications, provided the following statement on Wednesday:

"While we are leaving public health officials to handle public health issues, we have been working to ensure our clubs are cleaned and sanitized regularly. We are focused on serving our members during this unprecedented time and we’ve implemented several measures intended to help bring peace of mind. Recently, additional benefits were also extended to our associates during this time to support their medical, emotional and financial needs."

"Specifically, we have/are:

• Enacted deep-cleaning and sanitizing protocols with guidance from the CDC and Walmart’s chief medical officer. Conducting health screenings and temperature checks on our associates prior to them beginning their shifts. Should an associate have a fever [100 degrees or higher] or answer “yes” to our screening questionnaire, he/she will be asked to return home until symptoms subside or they go through necessary COVID-19 protocols.

• All associates are required to wear Walmart-issued or otherwise approved masks at all times.

• Limiting the number of members who can be in a store at the same time.

• Installed plexiglass barriers (sneeze guards) at our checkout lanes and pharmacy areas.

• Installed floor decals at the entrances and in checkout lanes that show exactly how far six feet is, making it easier for customers to judge the proper social distance from each other.

• Adjusted operating hours to allow for more time to clean and sanitize the store.

A video by Sam's Club CEO Kathy McClay provides more information on precautions being used by Sam's Clubs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwx4XzAS3BM

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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