Seattle grocery store worker dies from COVID-19

SEATTLE -- Safeway confirms a worker in Seattle died from COVID-19. He was a longtime associate at the Safeway store on Rainier Avenue South.

Querubin Eusebio Dizon Quitlong, better known as Sonny, had his last day of work on March 2nd.

Since his case, Safeway says it has undergone regular cycles of enhanced cleaning and sanitizing at the Rainier grocery store. Safeway says if any of its employees are feeling uneasy, they should reach out to its Employee Assistance Program.

A new report from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said at least 30 grocery store workers have died as a result of COVID-19. Another 3,000 were directly impacted by the virus.

Patricia Estes works at Fred Meyer in South Hill.

"It scares me, my coworkers, for any of us trying to make a living during this time. It's very scary because you don't know if you've been exposed and bringing it to your family. It's very unnerving," said Estes.

UFCW 21 represents 20,000 grocery workers in the state of Washington and since the crisis, the union has been working with employers like Kroger and Safeway to protect employees. Measures include allowing workers to wear masks and gloves, installing plexiglass shields at cash registers, dedicating one worker during every shift to sanitize all workspaces and high traffic areas, having signs encouraging social distancing, and ensuring that workers who are exposed to COVID-19 can stay home and still get paid.

Even with all those measures in place, the union says the biggest challenge is getting customers to do their part.

"We're asking customers to really respect the social distancing. I've been getting a lot of reports from members that customers are just stacked on top of each other so one more thing we need to win is limiting the number of people in aisles and having arrows in aisles so they can flow," said Sarah Cherin, the Chief of Staff on UFCW 21.

Kroger and UFCW has called on the nation's leaders to temporarily designate grocery store workers as first responders giving them priority for testing and protective gear.