Public health agency: no COVID-19 case at WinCo in Helena

Posted at 5:10 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 10:14:24-04

Lewis & Clark Public Health in Helena says that the report of a WinCo employee that tested positive for COVID-19 is not true.

The public health agency said at 4:40 pm: "With the help of management at the WinCo Foods corporate headquarters in Boise, we have determined that there has been NO EMPLOYEE who has tested positive for COVID-19 at the Helena store."

They agency said they determined where the person lives and then contacted the state public health laboratory to find out if any test had been performed on someone with that name and address, and discovered that no test had been done on the person.

WinCo Foods spokesperson Noah Fleisher released a statement to MTN after learning the outcome of the investigation: "We have learned from the public health department that our employee falsely reported a positive test, which prompted the required CDC notification. We are addressing this as a personnel matter and cannot comment further about that. We would like to sincerely thank the Lewis and Clark Public Health District for their partnership in this matter.”

We will update you if we get more information.

(1st REPORT, 1:02 pm) A letter from WinCo Foods management to vendors says an employee at its Helena store recently tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the letter, the store was informed that the person tested positive on Monday, April 13, and that the company was following the Centers for Disease Control's guidance in notifying people who may have been exposed. The letter states that the employee had last been at work on April 7 before "being taken off of work for symptoms."

WinCo confirmed the employee tested positive in a statement to MTN News and said other store workers had been notified as well.

WinCo spokesman Noah Fleisher said in the email, "To repeat: the employee in question has been off work and in self-quarantine for the last 8 days and has not been in the store. The area where the individual worked has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, multiple times since the employee went home. WinCo Foods continues to be very clear with employee owners and customers during this nationwide health crisis that they should stay home and not come to work or the store if they are not feeling well. We have no reason to believe there is any threat or risk of exposure from this to our customers. "

Aside from alerting vendors and workers, WinCo says it is taking "enhanced cleaning and sanitation measures" at its Helena store, and that the safety of customers and employees is their highest priority.

In the statement to MTN News, Fleisher said that WinCo has taken measures at stores to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Measures include:

  • Metered entry based on store size to control crowds
  • Social distancing
  • Cloth mask-wearing
  • Check stand shielding
  • Increased cleaning of high traffic and high touch areas

In the letter to vendors it says no other employees at the Helena store have tested positive for the virus, and it hoped for a full recovery of its employee and all others impacted by COVID-19.

The WinCo store in Helena opened in March 2019.