An employee at the Lansdowne Whole Foods grocery store in Ottawa has tested positive for the coronavirus, company officials have confirmed.
In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Whole Foods Market said a team member at the Lansdowne store has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but declined to share further details about the specific case such as when the diagnosis was confirmed, citing concerns about employee privacy.
But another employee at the site, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal from Whole Foods management, told Global News the person who tested positive last worked on Thursday, Oct. 2.
The anonymous employee said team members were told via text message on Oct. 4 about a COVID-19 case in their store.
The employee expressed concern that the public had not been notified about the positive test.
Whole Foods’ spokesperson said that when an employee tests positive for the virus, the store follows a “set plan” that includes “comprehensive cleaning, contact tracing and a formal notification process for those working in our stores.”
The spokesperson said the company is “working closely” with team members and supporting the employee currently in quarantine.
“The safety of our team members and customers is our top priority and we are diligently following all guidance from local health and food safety authorities,” the spokesperson said.
Joshua Thatcher, the general manager of the Lansdowne Whole Foods location, reiterated to Global News in a call Wednesday afternoon that the company is doing everything it can to prioritize the health and safety of its team and customers.
Thatcher wouldn’t say Wednesday whether any additional team members had been asked to self-isolate in relation to the confirmed case.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) said it does not disclose positive cases or outbreaks at specific workplaces in an effort to protect the privacy of those who test positive for the virus.
An OPH spokesperson told Global News that employers are not mandated to disclose to the public when an employee tests positive for the virus.
The local public health unit works with employers to conduct contact tracing after a case is confirmed and will only issue announcements about possible exposures when those efforts are insufficient to identify close contacts, as was the case when an employee at a Walmart Pharmacy on Baseline Road tested positive in August.
Thatcher added in his comments a call to avoid stigmatizing people who test positive for the virus, as though there were anything “wrong” with them or that they behaved irresponsibly.
OPH has also published its own statements on stigma surrounding COVID-19, asking residents to avoid using language that puts blame on infected individuals.