SALEM, Mass. (CBS) – A Market Basket associate from the Salem store died after being diagnosed with coronavirus, the company confirmed on Tuesday. The woman also worked at Walmart in Lynn, her husband said.
The news came just hours after workers rallied for better protections.
A Market Basket spokeswoman said the woman, identified by her husband as 59-year-old Vitalina Williams, last worked in the Massachusetts grocery store on March 26. Her husband, David Williams, said Vitalina started feeling sick about two weeks ago, she left work early, and after a couple of days, he took her to the emergency room.
“My last memory of her, seeing her sitting there in her coat, her little hat and leaving her at the emergency room. I couldn’t even stay with her.” David Williams said. “They put her on a respirator almost immediately and she passed away a week later.”
“It can all change on you without warning,” said David. Vitalina had been worried about David because he has an underlying health condition, not about her herself, according to David.
Two other associates from the Salem Market Basket store tested positive for coronavirus and have quarantined themselves. Market Basket has made counseling services available to colleagues and family members.
“Vitalina Williams was a part-time Market Basket associate who served in our Salem store for eleven years. Our hearts go out to her husband Dave who is also a member of our Market Basket family,” said spokeswoman Justine Griffin.
Walmart also issued a statement, saying “Vitalina was adored by her Walmart family and will be greatly missed. Our hearts go out to her family.”
Market Basket reported the woman’s death to public health officials. The store brought in a specialized cleaning crew to disinfect the store as a precaution and it is adding clear plastic barriers to all the checkout lanes.
The store was open Tuesday and staggering the number of customers allowed in while those outside were kept 6 feet apart.
“I think they’re doing a great job here, but what a tragedy to hear,” said shopper Tim Flynn.
“It’s a big place, you know. No matter what, there is always going to be someone probably coming in with it and you don’t know who has it,” said shopper Amanda Lobo.
“We lost a good one,” said David Williams of his wife. “That’s all I got to say. We lost a good one.”
On Tuesday, the state announced additional guidelines “about how to provide a safe environment for customers and the workforce,” including limiting the number of people grocery stores to 40% capacity, designating one-way aisles, and encouraging customers to use online delivery or curbside pick-up.
“They’re wiping off the cart before, social distancing six tiles apart, it is awesome in there,” said shopper Tristan Burke.
“They are taking a risk they have precautions and they’re taking precautions for us, so we should consider them,” shopper Robbie Rais said.