TAZEWELL COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – A Walmart in Southwest Virginia will be closed until Saturday morning while it is cleaned as part of the company’s response to rising COVID-19 cases.
A release from Walmart states that the store at 13320 G.C. Peery Highway in Pounding Mill began its temporary closure at 2 p.m. Thursday.
“As you know, several areas across the country have begun seeing a renewed increase in positive COVID-19 cases, and we want to assist health officials working against the pandemic,” the release states.
“The County had been notified by the corporate office of the situation and I was appreciative of the fact that they were taking a proactive stance on the situation, doing everything they could to keep their employees safe and the public safe,” Tom Lester, Tazewell County Board of Supervisors Chairman said.
During the closure, a “third-party specialist” will sanitize the store while employees restock the shelves.
Lester told News Channel 11 that in Tazewell County, Walmart likely has the highest foot traffic among the county’s businesses.
“It might make sense considering the trend in the COVID numbers the last couple of weeks – the post-Thanksgiving period – that we would see an increase in COVID in facilities as large as Walmart. I don’t think that other businesses will be in comparable situations,” he said.
The store is scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18.
“My guess is, Walmart, when they reopen Saturday morning in the morning they will be ready for business and there will be folks who are ready to do their Christmas shopping and the impact will be minimal,” Lester said.
“Everything we’re doing is for the well-being of our associates and the thousands of customers we serve daily, and in consideration of guidance by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and health experts,” the release states.
On Thursday, data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) indicated that Tazewell County had reported 22 new cases of COVID-19. The VDH reports Tazewell County has seen 120 COVID-related deaths since the department began tracking cases.
Tazewell County’s current seven-day new COVID case rate and test positivity percentages aren’t the worst in the region. Its case rate isn’t as high as Southwest Virginia’s overall rate.
It sits at 300 cases per 100,000 population, below the region’s rate of 344, but above Virginia’s overall rate of 219.
At the beginning of this week, the county’s test positivity rate was 13.1%. Washington County, Va. had a rate of 18.4% and its current new case rate is just above 400.
Lester said though the COVID numbers are trending negatively, and new of the Omicron variant spreads, he hopes his community won’t panic.
“I think they need to celebrate Christmas, our businesses will stay open – businesses will make money, families will be together and celebrate the holidays and this is just a good example of a corporation that cares about its employees, cares about the community. We’re very thankful that Walmart is cognitive of the situation, and we know that all our other businesses will do likewise,” he said.
Walmart also released that along with closing the store for a deep clean, the corporation would ask that employees wear masks inside Walmart facilities in counties with “substantial or high transmission.”
It does not stop with masking up. The company is also offering incentives for vaccinations.
“”Should associates choose to schedule their vaccinations elsewhere, we will provide two hours of paid leave and up to three days paid leave, should they experience an adverse reaction. We are currently offering $150 bonuses for associates who choose to become fully vaccinated and have not previously received the vaccination incentive,” the release detailed.