Why Kroger's free COVID-19 testing for employees is so important

Kroger just announced that the grocery store chain will begin offering free testing for the novel coronavirus to employees with symptoms this month. The stores and its employees have been on the frontlines of the pandemic as the virus spread, so this is a major step for essential workers at these grocery stores.

The plan is to either send a free self-administered test to employees or have them visit a free testing site at one of the grocery store's drive-thru pharmacies that can administer the test. The company hopes to have as many as 50 drive-thru stations by the end of May (via Supermarket News).

"Our associates have worked tirelessly to provide communities continued access to fresh, affordable food," said Tim Massa, senior vice president and chief people officer at Kroger. "We are dedicated to providing support and gratitude to our associates across the country."

While Kroger has not released a number of employees who have fallen ill, there have been four employee deaths, all of which were employed at different stores in Michigan. In addition to testing for the virus, the company has also provided access to mental health and grief experts for those who have lost loved ones throughout the pandemic as well (via CNBC).

Testing Kroger employees covers thousands of people

Kroger is one of five U.S. grocery retailers that has opened drive-thru testing centers. Those who have existing high-risk medical conditions receive priority for testing, but all employees with symptoms are offered COVID-19 tests. The grocery store is following the testing guidelines that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released.

Kroger is the parent company of grocery stores that also includes chains like Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, and Fry's. Between all of the chains under the Kroger company umbrella, that adds up to nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states and Washington, D.C. The stores have more than 460,000 employees, and the company has hired an additional 70,000 employees to keep up with demand during the pandemic. Now that free testing is available at Kroger, more than half a million people will have access should they show symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

"The widespread availability of diagnostic testing will now allow our associates to feel more empowered and knowledgeable about their health, creating safer stores and facilities," said Colleen Lindholz, the president of Kroger Health.

So far, there are 30 drive-thru centers located in Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. These testing facilities are primarily in Kroger parking lots and are operated by nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and technicians from Kroger Health.