By Kiet Do

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A third grocery store employee has tested positive for coronavirus in San Jose, marking the third such infection within 10 days in the city.

The latest developments about the sickened grocery workers underscores how widely the county’s guidance on cleaning is interpreted.

A spokesperson for Cardenas Markets said the company learned about the positive test result Monday, March 30, and shut down the store at 1070 S. White Road for a deep cleanse by a professional cleaning crew.

Cardenas did not reveal when the infected employee last worked in the store.

“We have immediately mobilized to support the Team Member who is now in quarantine,” Cardenas Chief Marketing Officer Adam Salgado said in a company statement. “And all team members who have been in direct contact with the individual have been sent home for a period of 14 days.”

Cardenas reopened the east San Jose store Tuesday morning.

Also on Monday night, Safeway confirmed an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was last in the store at 179 Branham Lane in south San Jose March 24.

The Branham Lane location “has been through multiple cycles of our enhanced cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting process since that day.”

“In an abundance of caution, we conducted a thorough cleaning and disinfection with guidance from third-party sanitation experts,” the company said in a statement.

On March 21, FoodMaxx closed the location at 1539 Parkmoor Ave in San Jose, after learning one of its employees had died from COVID-19. She was last in the store March 6. The company reopened the store March 26.

Plastic shields at checkstands, gloves for cashiers, and markings on the ground for social distancing are now common at nearly all grocery stores. However, interpretation and implementation of “enhanced cleaning” varies widely from store to store.

At the county’s daily press briefing on Tuesday, Santa Clara Director of Public Health Dr. Sara Cody referred to previously issued requirements when asked about increasing enhanced cleanings at grocery stores.

The guidance from Santa Clara County, in the “COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Measures for Food Facilities,” requires essential businesses such as grocery stores “to the maximum extent feasible…regularly clean high touch surfaces.”

At the Branham Lane Safeway, an employee designated for disinfection and sanitation was seen wiping down handles and self-checkout areas. Checkstands are required to be disinfected every hour, according to Safeway spokesperson Wendy Gutshall. However, PIN pads and conveyor belts were not disinfected between customer transactions.

“We’ve enhanced measures to clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms and other high-touch points of the store throughout the day, as well as a deep cleanse at the end of each business day,” said Gutshall.

Cardenas has adjusted store hours to allow for more time to sanitize the stores, installed plastic at checkstands, provided gloves to employees, temporarily closed self-service areas of prepared food, and implemented “enhanced daily sanitation measures”, according to Salgado. However, the statement did not provide details about the new measures. During a visit Tuesday morning, there were no employees dedicated to disinfecting the store during business hours were seen.

However, next door to Cardenas, at Rite Aid, cashiers have been instructed to wipe down the check stand and PIN pads after each customer use.

Health officials are stepping up requirements for grocers and other essential businesses that are allowed to stay open, by banning reusable bags and requiring hand sanitizer to be placed at key points within the store.

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