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.

Vitalina Williams. (Family Photo)

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.

Comments (7)
  1. Paula says:

    Ok tell us MORE. Did she have pre existing conditions?

    1. Kathy says:

      Does it really Matter???????????

    2. Kathy says:

      Rest in Peace Vitalina Williams, and our condolence to your Families.

  2. Neil says:

    Someone should get after the managers of the Walmart in Derry, NH and the Shaw’s in Windham, NH. Only two employees at the Derry Walmart were wearing PPE on Saturday and on Tuesday, April 7, zero employees were wearing PPE at Shaw’s.

  3. lynne says:

    I completely agree with Neil. Please give your workers PPE.

  4. M Crestohl says:

    I recall seeing her at Market Basket where she was a cashier in the Express lane. She was always pleasant and friendly. I shall miss her. My sincere condolences to her husband and family.

  5. vulpsdraws says:

    Market basket workers need hazard pay and more protection. Plexiglass is finally coming in but not fast enough, my friends got 50 dollar bonuses instead of hazard pay or wage increases. glad to know we are risking our lives for 50 bucks while people die and get sick all the while the company pulls in millions. shaws and stop and shop already increased wages. some CEO we went on strike for

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