An employee at the Salem, Massachusetts, Market Basket store has died after battling the coronavirus.
The company confirmed the worker's death in a statement Tuesday, saying she had last worked in the store on March 26.
Vitalina Williams' husband said he was devastated by a loss that came shockingly fast. He said they both had to continue working because they had bills to pay, but that they knew the risks.
"She wasn’t the love my life — she was my life," David Williams said.
Williams had no pre-existing conditions that her husband was aware of. David Williams, who's also had coronavirus symptoms, said his wife started feeling ill just over a week ago and was hospitalized after trouble breathing.
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She was sedated, put on a breathing tube and put on "two drugs for malaria they’ve been touting but it wasn’t effective," David Williams said, but she didn't make it.
"Everybody who knew her, everybody who encountered her, knew she was a special lady," he said.
Vitalina Williams tested positive on March 28. Two other employees at the store have also tested positive for COVID-19 and have quarantined themselves and their close contacts, Market Basket said.
“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,” a representative of the company said in a statement.
Market Basket is offering counseling for any colleagues or family members who need it, the company said.
The grocery store chain said the positive cases have been reported to the state Department of Public Health and the company has followed their guidance, bringing in a specialized cleaning crew to clean and disinfect the store as an added precaution.
Her death was announced the day grocery store workers from several chains protested in Boston to demand more protection.
Lisa Wilson, who works at Shaw's in Hyde Park said she thinks that stores' protocols look good, "but as far as actually enforcing it and making sure that people are staying a certain amount of feet apart and things are getting cleaned and sanitized as much as they should, that’s not really happening."
Market Basket announced last week that it was establishing new store protocols to support social distancing and limit the number of customers in the store at any given time.
The new shopping protocol includes the following:
- The number of customers shopping at one time will be limited, based on the size of the store, in order to ensure that customers have personal space, can maintain social distancing and feel more comfortable.
- A single entrance and exit will be designated for customers' use.
- Each shopper will be greeted upon entrance by a store associate who will clean and sanitize a carriage for them.
The company also said it will continue its heightened disinfection program in response to the virus, focusing on high-touch surfaces including cash registers, counter tops, register belts, red baskets, shopping carriages, payment devices, touch pads, desks, door and drawer handles, phones and computers.
Health officials said Tuesday that Massachusetts has more than 15,000 coronavirus cases and 356 deaths. Gov. Charlie Baker has said the surge in cases is expected sometime in mid-April.