Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston

A Walmart employee is one of two new cases that tested positive for coronavirus, County Judge Robert Johnston told the Herald-Press Thursday. The total number of positive cases in Anderson County is now 16.

“A case occurring at Walmart is inevitable,” Johnston said. “The general manager told me employees are super-cleaning the store since they got the news.”

It's unknown how long the employee worked at Walmart while carrying the virus.

Even though a Walmart employee has tested positive, Johnston said, the county has no authority to demand action from the retailer.

“Their [Walmart’s] response would be entirely a corporate decision,” he said.

Adam Harding, general manager of Palestine’s Walmart, declined comment, saying all questions related to Walmart’s response to the pandemic would have to be made through the company’s corporate offices.

The first Walmart employee to test positive for coronavirus was last month in Cynthiana, Kentucky. Following news of the positive test, Walmart President and CEO John Furner sent a corporate memo to all employees.

“After learning of this case, we consulted with state and local health experts, and reinforced our cleaning and sanitizing protocol,” the memo stated. “With the support and encouragement of the state government, the store remains open.

“As more cases are likely to occur, we’ll continue to take precautions and actions to keep our stores, clubs and other facilities clean and ensure the well-being of our associates, customers and members, following the protocols from our own health experts and relevant federal and state agencies.”

If an employee at Palestine’s Walmart tests positive, a similar response is expected, and the store will remain open.

Walmart officials have already taken steps to slow the spread of the virus within their stores. Shortened hours, an amendment to sick-leave policies; a customer limit of one adult per-household; and purchasing limits on hard-to-find items are among the changes the retail giant made in the wake of the national emergency.

Friday, company officials also mandated all employees to wear masks at work. The store does not require customers to wear surgical masks, but Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to issue an order next week to require shoppers to wear masks in stores.

“We will continue to monitor this situation closely with the support of our Emergency Operations Center and health officials,” Furner said in his internal memo. “Know that we will continue to take any and all measures necessary to ensure the well-being of our associates, customers, and members.”

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