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Walmart Inc. will start screening hourly employees for symptoms of covid-19 as they show up for work, including taking their temperatures, the company said Tuesday.

Workers also will be asked "some basic health screening questions" on arrival for their shifts, the Bentonville-based retailer said in a blog post.

These are the latest steps Walmart has taken over the past few weeks to help protect the health of its customers and employees. Other measures include shortening store hours for additional cleaning and disinfecting, using wipes and sprayers to disinfect carts, installing signage to encourage social distancing and beginning to install sneeze guards at pharmacies and checkout registers.

Walmart will send infrared thermometers to all its U.S. locations, which could take up to three weeks, according to the post by Walmart and Sam's Club executives. In addition, the retailer will provide masks and gloves, as supplies permit, for employees who want them.

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John Furner, president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S., and Kath McLay, president and CEO of Sam's Club, Walmart's members-only warehouse division, said the new measures will apply to workers in the company's stores, clubs and other facilities.

Employees with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be paid for reporting to work and asked to go home and seek medical treatment if necessary. They can return to work when they've been fever-free for at least three days.

"Many associates have already been taking their own temperatures at home, and we're asking them to continue that practice as we start doing it on-site," Furner and McLay said. "And we'll continue to ask associates to look out for other symptoms of the virus (coughing, feeling achy, difficulty breathing) and never come to work when they don't feel well."

Under Walmart's covid-19 emergency leave policy, hourly employees may stay home if they have any virus-related symptoms, concerns or illness, or if they are quarantined. Workers with a confirmed case of the virus will get two weeks' pay, while those required to go into quarantine will get up to two weeks' pay.

However, employees who are unable to work or who feel uncomfortable at work because of the virus must use their accrued time off in order to get paid.

The policy, which started March 10, is effective through this month. It applies to both full- and part-time hourly workers, regardless of the length of their employment.

Walmart has about 1.5 million U.S. employees. Many of them work on the front lines in Walmart's stores, clubs, and distribution and fulfillment centers, and they don't have the option of working from home like the company's corporate employees are doing.

The masks being supplied will arrive in a week or two, the company said. They will be high-quality masks, but not the N95 respirators reserved for at-risk health care workers.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that healthy people use masks or gloves unless they normally wear them in their jobs, Walmart workers may ask their supervisors for them.

Dan Bartlett, Walmart's executive vice president of corporate affairs, said in a media call that both employees and customers had been asking for masks and gloves to be made available to workers.

Bartlett said that, along with health care workers and first responders, "retail workers in many cases are being asked to do heroic-type work in order to keep America fed and the strain and challenges that puts on retailers like Walmart and others is not normal, but it's one in which we are continuing to see our associates rise to the occasion."

Other large retailers, including supermarket chains Kroger and Albertsons, have instituted safety measures similar to Walmart's in their own stores. Target Corp. CEO Brian Cornell said last week that the Minnesota-based company had scheduled more time for cleaning and disinfecting stores after hours; added signs and floor decals to remind customers to keep a safe distance in checkout lanes; and begun installing sneeze guards, among other safety initiatives.

"As we've been doing for weeks, we'll continue evaluating other options," Cornell said.

To support its employees, Target has followed Walmart in temporarily raising front-line workers' pay by $2 an hour and offering bonus payouts -- though only to store department managers. It's also allowing workers who are 65 or older, or pregnant, or who have underlying health conditions to take paid leave for up to 30 days.

Target has 1,871 stores and 41 distribution centers in the U.S., according to its corporate website. It employs more than 350,000 workers.

E-commerce giant Amazon.com is following suit. In its Whole Foods Market and Amazon Go stores, it has enhanced sanitation protocols and established social distancing guidelines. Also, online grocery customers may choose an "unattended delivery" option during checkout -- a feature Sam's Club also offers through delivery service Instacart.

Amazon has raised pay by $2 an hour in the U.S. and the equivalent in other countries, and it has doubled overtime pay. Additionally, Amazon and Whole Foods employees diagnosed with covid-19 or placed into quarantine will get up to two weeks of pay.

Business on 04/01/2020

Print Headline: Walmart to screen workers for illness

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