Outside Market Hall on Fourth Street. Photo: Pete Rosos

Update, June 11: Market Hall Foods on Fourth Street reopened on Wednesday.

Original story, June 9:  A staff member at Market Hall Foods on Fourth Street in Berkeley tested positive for COVID-19 and the location is temporarily closed while the market’s other workers get tested.

The employee was tested for COVID-19 on Friday, and the results came back positive on Monday. The diagnosed staffer is quarantined at home with mild symptoms and has not worked at the store since they started feeling sick Thursday. According to spokesperson Marshka Kiera, the diagnosed employee does not have a position that involves interacting with customers.

The positive case is the first at the East Bay-based market, which has another location in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood. Kiera said the store conducted a risk analysis recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the case was confirmed, which determined that no one at the store – even those working in the same space – are at high risk for contracting the virus from the employee. Still, Market Hall is requiring the employee’s team members to get tested before returning to work.

Both Market Hall locations have been following social distancing practices in accordance with Alameda County rules and the CDC since March, adhering to safety measures recommended with each guideline update, and using best practices like extensive hand washing and having employees walk past one another without facing each other. The store is taking employees’ temperatures at the beginning of each shift, and inquiring if they or any members of their household have had symptoms of COVID-19.

“As a precaution, since this is our first positive case, we actually asked the entire team that that person works with to get tested,” Kiera said, adding that the diagnosed employee has not had any crossover with Market Hall’s other locations, but that all Market Hall staff have been notified of the positive case. Testing is optional for workers who are not on the employee’s team.

The market closed Monday “to conduct a deep clean, in addition to current enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols,” Kiera said. The store planned to reopen today, but due to some staff members being unable to access test sites, the market decided to stay closed an extra day, at least. A new city testing site that opened Monday for any asymptomatic residents could speed up the testing process.

“If we have half of our staff saying ‘we’re a little too nervous to come in,’ we would stay closed for the time being,” Kiera said, emphasizing that there’s no health-related reason not to reopen. “Through our interviews with staff, we didn’t identify anyone who was at risk, and therefore they can continue to work until they have their test results.”

The store has been in touch with the city’s public health department, which is working with them to complete contact tracing, Kiera said. It also posted a statement alerting customers of the COVID-19 case on its website and storefront.

Last week, Whole Foods Market on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley confirmed one of its employees tested positive for the virus. The store remained open during its regular hours.

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...