LaGrange Walmart distribution center employee contracts COVID-19, worries about spread at facility

Published 8:30 am Tuesday, July 7, 2020

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Larry Hill Jr., an employee for 19 years at the Walmart Distribution Center in LaGrange, is a 47-year-old who considered himself in good health. But after testing positive for COVID-19, he said the combination of body aches and breathing problems shook him up.

“When you feel like you doing better, you just want to be happy about it, but at night it just comes and gets you,” Hill said. 

He first developed symptoms on June 19, got tested and received the diagnosis on June 27. 

A nurse for his primary care physician told him that there wasn’t much he could do besides rest, take Tylenol, and wait for the virus to run its course. In the meantime, he said last week that he was self-quarantining, medicating, drinking tea and taking hot showers to reduce the pain.

“Anything that’ll just give me an hour or 30 minutes of relief is what I’m looking for,” Hill said.

Hill thinks he contracted the virus at work. The distribution center is located on Callaway Church Road. According to the LaGrange Economic Development website, the average distribution center serves 90-100 stores in its region.

The distribution has not closed at any point during the pandemic, according to Hill. Instead, they have sent home employees who exhibited symptoms or tested positive. 

After receiving a positive test, Hill said three others who he works closely with contracted the virus, and that a woman who was responsible for temperature checks and mask distribution contracted it. 

He said his supervisors did not ask him who he had been in contact with. Hill works in a shipping area with 30-40 others, and said nature of his job requires workers to be close to one another. When he stopped working to self-quarantine, there were about 20 cases in the center, which employs several hundred people. 

He was not aware of any deaths caused by COVID-19. 

Walmart did not respond to a request to comment for this article.

Hill said workers are usually told about new cases in the last 30 minutes of their shift, before being given small hand sanitizer bottles to take home. 

Despite the PPE and temperature checks, Hill is worried that the facility is not being cleaned enough and that there is a lack of social distancing in units like his. 

“They tell us its safe, but our numbers keep going up and up,” Hill said. “Our managers need to take it more serious for our well-being, not just the business’ well-being.”