UPDATE: Public Health says no WinCo employees test positive for COVID-19

Posted at 5:50 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 19:50:46-04

HELENA — UPDATE 04:55 P.M.: Lewis and Clark Public Health says through an investigation it has learned that an employee of the Helena WinCo did not test positive for COVID-19.

A letter from WinCo Foods to vendors circulated online said an employee at its Helena store tested positive for the virus on April 13.

MTN contacted WinCo's corporate headquarters who confirmed the information in the letter. However, Lewis and Clark Public Heath said on social media it was unaware of any coronavirus cases related to WinCo.

Public Health said in a news release that it reached out to WinCo to obtain the name of the employee and followed up with the individual.

In a release Wednesday afternoon, officials said it learned through a call that there was no such test and no employee of the Helena Winco tested positive for COVID-19.

WinCo Foods Dir. Spokesperson Noah Fleisher released a statement to MTN after learning the outcome of the investigation.

Fleisher said, "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.”

A letter from WinCo Foods management to vendors says an employee at its Helena store has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the letter, the store was informed that the individual had tested positive on April 13, and that the company was following the Centers for Disease Control's guidance in notifying those 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 and said other store workers had been notified as well.

Noah Fleisher, Dir. Spokesperson for WinCo Foods said in the email, "To repeat: the employee owner 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.

WinCo said that the safety of customers and employees is their highest priority.

In the statement to MTN, Fleisher writes 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 have tested positive for the virus and it hoped for a full recovery of its employee and all others impacted by COVID-19.