23 coronavirus cases, one of them fatal, linked to lunch at warehouse in Naperville, federal safety agency finds

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Midwest Warehouse and Distribution System Inc. failed to take steps “to identify, inform, isolate and quarantine” exposed employees.

SHARE 23 coronavirus cases, one of them fatal, linked to lunch at warehouse in Naperville, federal safety agency finds
An outbreak of coronavirus was linked to a luncheon at Midwest Warehouse on Diehl Road in Naperville, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

An outbreak of coronavirus was linked to a luncheon at Midwest Warehouse on Diehl Road in Naperville, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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A federal investigation has found that a Naperville warehouse failed to quarantine employees following a COVID-19 outbreak tied to a luncheon that caused nearly two dozen workers to contract the virus, including one who died.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says Midwest Warehouse and Distribution System Inc. failed to take steps “to identify, inform, isolate and quarantine” exposed employees.

In all, 23 employees tested positive for the coronavirus days after the late October luncheon, including one employee who died of complications on Nov. 4, the agency said in a statement.

The Woodridge-based company faces a fine of $12,288.

“This case is a tragic reminder of the importance of fully implementing coronavirus prevention measures that include wearing face coverings, physically distancing and quarantining workers who exhibit symptoms to protect other workers from coronavirus exposure,” OSHA Area Director Jake Scott said in the statement.

The Naperville warehouse on Diehl Road has more than 100 warehouse employees and about 20 office employees, according to Midwest Warehouse CFO Tim Nelson.

Nelson said the company asked for an informal conference with OSHA’s area director to discuss and contest the citation.

“As a company, safety has always been a paramount pillar of our company, and we’ve taken COVID seriously since day one,” Nelson said.

Nelson disputed OSHA’s characterization that the company authorized a “luncheon.” He said an employee volunteered to pick up tacos on Friday, Oct. 23 for coworkers. The food was placed in a warehouse break room, where some employees ate the food and others took some food and ate at their work stations, he said.

A few days later, employees began to call in sick and several tested positive for the coronavirus, Nelson said. A 56-year-old female office worker later died of complications, he said.

“We’ve always felt like we’ve been on the cutting edge of OSHA standards,” Nelson said. “We strictly adhere to CDC guidelines. Safety is of vast importance to our company. We’re looking forward to have a dialogue with OSHA to discuss this citation.”

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