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South Boston News
The Dollar General distribution center closed briefly this week after an employee there tested positive. / June 29, 2020

Employees at the Dollar General distribution center and the Sheetz store in Riverdale have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, part of a spike in Halifax County’s caseload in recent days.

As of Sunday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 49 confirmed cases of the virus in Halifax. The number of test positives jumped by seven in the VDH daily update on Saturday, after the work week came to an end Friday with 42 diagnosed cases of the respiratory disease in Halifax County.

After learning a worker tested positive, Dollar General informed its employees Friday that the person has not been at the warehouse facility since June 23. Dollar General further announced a brief shutdown, from Friday through early Saturday morning, to allow for a deep cleaning and disinfecting of the distribution center.

Sheetz, which issued a statement Friday announcing that one of its employees tested positive, said the individual in question had not been at work at the Riverdale store since June 19. Sheetz in Riverdale was closed Saturday from 3-6 p.m., but the company said the brief shutdown was related to staffing issues, not COVID-19.

“Sheetz was informed this morning that an employee at our store location on Philpott Road in South Boston, has tested positive for COVID-19,” company spokesperson Nick Ruffner said in a prepared statement. “Our top priority is the health and wellness of our customers and employees.

“This employee has not worked at this store location since June 19, and according to our on-going protocols, this store has been conducting daily cleaning, sanitization and disinfecting. Therefore, the store will not be closing at this time. We will continue to put the health and well-being of our customers and employees first as this unprecedented health crisis continues.”

Although Sheetz has reopened, touch screen ordering from the kitchen will be unavailable from 10 p.m.-7 a.m. for the time being. Customers will also need to pay for gas at the pump with a credit or debit card, again due to staffing issues, according to Jennifer Donahoe, Sheetz public relations and social media account director.

Dollar General, one of the county’s largest employers, responded to the infection of one of its employees by calling in an outside vendor to sanitize the massive distribution center facility.

“Dollar General has received confirmation of a positive diagnosis of the coronavirus (Covid-19). We can confirm that the employee has not been in the facility since June 23,” read a notice sent to the company’s workforce in South Boston. “Although we have implemented proactive measures including increased cleaning throughout the distribution center, we are temporarily closing our site. This will allow for an external cleaning vendor to come in and provide additional sanitation and prepare for re-opening.

“During this time, employees will receive pay for all scheduled work hours. Once the building has been cleaned, we will reopen and resume operations on Saturday June 27 at 5 a.m. We ask that you not return to the distribution center until then.”

To halt potential spread of the virus inside the center, Dollar General will retain outside vendors to “perform a detailed cleaning on a routine basis before, during, and after shifts or specific work areas and common areas, including lockers, doorknobs, tables, bathrooms, equipment, telephones, time clock, etc. We intend to continue these proactive measure according to guidance provided by the CDC.

“Dollar General continues to comply with all federal, state, and local health regulations. The health and safety of our employees and customers is top priority,” read the statement to workers. Local employees were encouraged to reach out to a supervisor or human resources manager with any additional questions.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, there are no outbreaks of the disease — defined as two or more confirmed test positives — in congregant workplace settings in the Southside Health District, which spans Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties. There are six reported outbreaks in the district — three at area nursing homes, one in a health care setting, and two at prison facilities.

In one of the prison outbreaks, at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Brunswick, 41 inmates and one member of the prison staff have tested positive. No one has died. The whereabouts of the second prison outbreak are unknown.

Nursing home outbreaks in Chase City and Clarksville account for 23 of Mecklenburg County’s 26 reported deaths from the virus. Mecklenburg’s overall caseload stands at 240 people, and Brunswick’s caseload is 102. One person has died in Brunswick.

COVID-19 has also claimed one life in Halifax County, according to the state health department.

In the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District, outbreaks have been reported in four congregant settings, a category that includes residential group homes, schools, workplaces, or any environment “where a number of people reside, meet or gather in close proximity for either a limited or extended period of time,” according to VDH. The nearby health district also reports a nursing home outbreak, at Brookdale Danville Piedmont. No deaths have been reported at the assisted living facility.

Danville has 80 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with two deaths, and Pittsylvania County has 108 cases, with one death.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story reported that Dollar General informed employees Thursday of a fellow worker testing positive for COVID-19, with the South Boston distribution center shut down that same day until reopening Saturday. The notice to employees was provided on Friday, also the day the plant was closed.

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In my opinion, Sheetz is the most transient business in the South Boston/Halifax area. It should be shut down until COVID19 is better managed/understood.

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