Safeway Produce Shortage Linked to COVID-19 Outbreak at Distribution Center

NBC Universal, Inc.

Safeway on Friday confirmed a recent produce shortage is linked to a coronavirus outbreak at a massive distribution center that serves all of Northern California.

About 3% of the 1,700 workers at the Tracy facility have tested positive for the virus. At least one employee has died from COVID-19 complications, Safeway said.

Safeway Director of Public Affairs Wendy Gutshall said all workers at the facility now have to wear masks and stagger breaks for social distancing purposes. All employees and visitors are required to undergo temperature checks. The company has also instituted a number of new sanitizing efforts.

Safeway said, according to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no reason to believe the virus could be transferred through any of its products or packaging. Read Safeway’s full statement at the bottom of this article.

Meanwhile, San Joaquin County Public Health Services sent out a memo to neighboring distribution centers and other businesses across the county asking them to report outbreaks. The memo said if there are three or more lab-confirmed cases, it is considered an outbreak at a workplace.

You can read the full document below:

A spokesperson for the agency said so far she does not know of any other outbreaks that have been reported since the memo went out.

Read Safeway's full statement below:

Like many of our neighbors in Northern California, COVID-19 has touched our own Safeway family with confirmed diagnoses among our associates.  We were saddened to learn that an associate at our Tracy Distribution Center has passed away due to complications related to COVID-19. Our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts are with that associate's family. This is difficult for the entire Safeway team. We are letting our associates know that if they are feeling uneasy, they can call our Employee Assistance Program to speak with licensed counselors.  We’re working to assist the associate’s family during this difficult time through the Safeway Foundation’s We Care program – a charitable program designed to support our associates during unanticipated financial hardships and emergencies.

The health and safety of all of our associates remains our top priority.  3% of our approximately 1,700 associates at the Tracy Distribution Center has tested positive for COVID-19.  We continue to reinforce with all associates the importance of social distancing as the most effective tool we have to combat the spread of COVID-19. We have also closed all common areas in addition to encouraging associates to take lunches and breaks by themselves. 

Enhanced health screenings are now in place at the Tracy Distribution Center. Those include thermal temperature readings and a health screening prior to associates and visitors entering the facility. We are asking associates to stay home if:

  • A member of their household has been diagnosed with or is suspected to have COVID-19, or
  • They have symptoms, including a cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, diarrhea, nausea, or chills and body aches 

 We’ve already implemented a number of additional precautionary measures, including:

  1. Sourced masks to be worn by all associates.
  2. Adjusted times for lunch and breaks to maintain social distancing.
  3. Placed social distancing signs and floor markers near the time clocks in the distribution center.
  4. Paused turn-style entries into the distribution center and removed some furniture in break rooms.
  5. Enhanced our cleaning and disinfection schedule throughout the distribution center. 
  6. Installed hand sanitizer stations at key locations within the distribution center.

The Food and Drug Administration states that there is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19. The FDA also states that currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.

We deeply appreciate all that our associates are doing during this unprecedented time, and will continue to do all we can to ensure their health and safety while also providing essential services to the community.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Us