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Walmart to deploy temperature checks, masks and gloves to all employees nationwide

Being an essential worker amid virus pandemic
Essential workers risk coronavirus exposure to serve their communities 03:02

As the coronavirus continues to shut down businesses across the U.S., Walmart has made the decision to keep its stores open. However, the nation's largest private employer is now taking additional steps to prevent its nearly 1.5 million employees from getting sick — and telling them to stay home if they are. 

Walmart announced Tuesday updated health and safety guidelines for all associates. From now on, the temperature of every employee will be taken as they report to work in stores, clubs and facilities, the company said. 

Walmart is now in the process of sending infrared thermometers to all locations, which could take as long as three weeks. As employees' temperatures are taken, they will also be asked some basic health screening questions.

If an employee has a temperature of over 100 degrees, they will be sent home for at least three days and possibly advised to seek medical treatment. Walmart said employees sent home will be paid for reporting to work.

Walmart emphasized that employees should never feel obligated to come to work if they feel unwell or have any of the symptoms of the virus, such as coughing, aches or breathing issues — without fear of losing their jobs.

Following complaints from workers about a lack of personal protective equipment, Walmart is also working on making masks and gloves available to all associates in the next 1-2 weeks. It specified that the masks will be high-quality, but not N95 respirators, "which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers." 

"We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them, while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them," John Furner, President & CEO, Walmart U.S. and Kath McLay, President & CEO, Sam's Club said in a press release.

The company announced the implementation of the "6-20-100" rule to help employees remember key COVID-19 guidelines. It asks employees to stay 6 feet away from others, spend 20 seconds washing their hands and stay home if their temperature is over 100 degrees.

These new guidelines are in addition to the basic CDC recommendations that Walmart has promoted to employees, including washing hands, social distancing and frequent cleaning of surfaces. The company has also started closing overnight for cleaning, installing sneeze guards at checkouts and pharmacies, wiping down carts and implementing an emergency leave policy.

"We greatly appreciate the work our associates are doing for customers, members, and their communities, and we will continue to prioritize their health and well-being," Furner and McLay said. 

Amazon and Instacart workers walking off job amid safety concerns over coronavirus 01:50

The new guidance from the nation's largest grocery store comes at the same time as "essential" workers across the country are striking to demand improved health and safety measures during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Dozens of Amazon workers in the company's Staten Island, New York, distribution facility walked off the job Monday to protest a lack of safety protections for workers after an employee at the warehouse tested positive for the virus. Workers at the rally chanted "Shut it down!" and said that there were 10 cases of positive COVID-19 tests in the building.

Amazon workers around the country have been protesting what they say are insufficient protections against the virus for weeks. The world's largest e-commerce company has declined to say how many of its workers have tested positive for COVID-19 or how many of its locations have been closed for cleanings.

Thousands of Instacart workers held a nationwide strike on Monday as demand for grocery delivery services has skyrocketed. In a letter posted on Medium, workers and activist organization Gig Workers Collective said that Instacart "has a well-established history of exploiting" its employees and that the mistreatment has "stooped to an all-time low." 

Amazon-owned Whole Foods workers across the country staged a "sick out" on Tuesday, organized by national worker group Whole Worker. While the strike was initially planned for May 1, it was moved up due to "urgent" health and safety needs for workers.

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