SAN BERNARDINO — Two workers at a Nordstrom warehouse here have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to several employees.
The employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, gave similar accounts of hearing the announcement Friday at the company’s fulfillment center at 17335 Glen Helen Parkway.
Nordstrom’s media relations did not confirm the accounts or respond to multiple requests for comment. A representative at the San Bernardino warehouse said she was not authorized to speak with the media.
According to the employees, a Nordstrom supervisor said one worker who tested positive had last been at work on March 10; the other, on March 26.
The Nordstrom supervisor said via a public address system that the building had closed overnight and been sanitized, according to the employees.
Additionally, the supervisor said they had made contact with everyone “that person” had come into contact with and that if an employee wasn’t spoken to, supervisors didn’t believe they were exposed, one anonymous employee said.
The announcement comes as employees deemed essential to the supply chain continue to work in warehouses that employ hundreds, if not thousands, of workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers at six Amazon facilities, including ones in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, have tested positive in the last week for COVID-19, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
This prompted workers there to begin circulating petitions to have the affected warehouses closed for two weeks, the article read.
Nordstrom announced it was temporarily closing its retail stores starting March 17 and extended the closure through April 5. A statement from Erik Nordstrom, the company’s CEO, said store employees would continue to be paid during this period.
“The health and safety of our customers and employees remain our top priority as we continue to make decisions during this rapidly evolving situation,” the CEO said. “We’re taking decisive actions across the business to help protect employees, customers and others in the communities we serve.”
A majority of its fulfillment and distribution centers would remain open “where permitted by local authorities to help us continue serving customers online and through our apps,” the company said.
The more than 600,000-square-foot fulfillment center in San Bernardino processes online orders for the company’s off-price brands, Nordstrom Rack and HauteLook, one of the employees said.
Online business made up one-third of sales in 2019, according to a Nordstrom statement.
Precautions had been put in place, including additional cleaning and “adjustments to allow for social distancing between employees and resources to help them stay healthy,” the company said.
Additionally, Nordstrom officials said employees that had concerns about working in the centers could let their managers or human resources know.
On Friday, the Nordstrom supervisor told workers they could stay home if they felt uncomfortable, according to the employees. Some of the employees in San Bernardino said they saw workers walk out after the announcement was made.
The company said in a March 17 statement that some fulfillment and distribution centers had temporarily closed “as a result of direction from local authorities.”
A Nordstrom fulfillment center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa closed after being informed an employee had tested positive for COVID-19, news outlet KCRG reported.
Company officials there told KCRG the center would remain closed until Thursday for a deep cleaning and to “develop new strategies to enhance social distancing practices at the facility.”
Lana Culp, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, said the county was authorized to order the closure of a facility deemed essential, but had not done so yet to her knowledge.
“We would have to look into the severity of the situation to make someone close,” she said.
According to an order issued March 10 by the county’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Erin Gustafson, only healthcare providers and laboratories are required to report positive COVID-19 cases.
Although Nordstrom officials at the San Bernardino facility said the building had been sanitized, one employee doubted how much disinfecting could have been done with mandatory 10-hour shifts:
“They said they did a deep cleaning but with everyone working 10s, it’s almost a (24-hour) operation. So how much cleaning really went on, you know?”
Martin Estacio may be reached at MEstacio@VVDailyPress.com or at 760-955-5358. Follow him on Twitter @DP_mestacio.