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Wear face masks while shopping, Missouri grocery workers ask


United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 President David Cook has a request for Missourians who need to shop during the ongoing pandemic: wear a face covering. 

And he’s asking elected officials to back them up. 

“I am calling on you to update your recent ‘stay at home’ order to require that all Missourians wear some kind of face covering when in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail establishments that are open because of the essential services they provide,” Cook said in a letter to Gov. Mike Parson. “This step will greatly reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 both among grocery workers and the general public and reflects the most up-to-date advice from the CDC.”

Cook noted many grocery stores have implemented social distancing policies and installed plexiglass walls at cash registers, but shoppers have not heeded warnings. 

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Schnucks President and CEO Dave Peacock said out of the company’s 14,000 teammates, 10 have tested positive for coronavirus, including nine in Missouri. If an infected employee has been at work, Schnucks brings in a third-party to clean the area.

During a briefing Thursday afternoon, Peacock said Schnucks is mandating employees wear masks and will provide them to those who need one. He said he “strongly encourages” members of the public to wear a face covering as well.

The company is also providing pay for employees who cannot work because of a diagnosis or quarantine in the household.

The request has already been backed by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. The St. Louis area has been impacted particularly greatly by COVID-19.

Grocery, food processing, pharmacy, and other retail workers have requested Parson designate them as “first responders” to ensure access to priority testing and safety equipment. The workers have also implored the state for security, wage reimbursement in the event employees not be able to work because of coronavirus, and daycare as schools closed. 

Parson has continued to sidestep the designation while thanking grocery workers for remaining at their jobs while other operations in the state have ground to a halt. 

When asked about the designation from The Missouri Times, Parson pointed to his statewide stay at home mandate that went into effect Monday. 

“By limiting the number of people that went into those stores to do business, we’re trying to protect those workers,” Parson said during his daily briefing Tuesday. 

“I wish you could be designated as a special response,” he continued. “I wish you could have the PPE equipment that you need, but unfortunately it’s not there, it’s not available.” 

Parson has also said he doesn’t believe “it’s the state’s place to mandate who wears a mask.”

As of Thursday, more than 3,500 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Missouri and 77 individuals have died.

This story has been updated to include comments from Schnucks’ president. It was originally published on April 8. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.