Cronig’s Market will remain shuttered on Monday after a cluster of nine cases have now been identified in store employees, Island health agents confirmed Sunday.
Monday’s closure comes after the grocery store announced on Friday afternoon that it would be closed for the weekend, following earlier confirmation from health officials that three store employees had tested positive for the virus.
On Sunday, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley confirmed that the number had grown to nine, with six additional employees receiving positive test results over the weekend.
Ms. Valley wrote in an email to the Gazette Sunday that health officials were working closely with store owner Steve Bernier to contact trace and test all store employees.
The historic Island grocery store has been closed since 3 p.m. Friday, when Mr. Bernier made the decision to shut down after after three employees tested positive between Wednesday and Friday. The decision was made in consultation with public health officials, who endorsed the closure although they did not specifically require it.
As of Friday, Mr. Bernier said that the store had tested 95 per cent of its staff and was waiting on the results from additional employee tests, with plans to re-open on Monday.
Cronig’s had already been closed on Sundays since late March, when Island grocery stores faced an unprecedented rush of business as the pandemic shut down other non-essentail food services. The store’s smaller up-Island location has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
But with the precipitous spike in the store’s case count over the weekend, Mr. Bernier announced on Sunday that the flagship Vineyard Haven location would stay closed for an additional day as the remainder of the store’s employees continue to receive the result of their tests. Announcement of the closure was posted as a release on the store’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
The release announced the closure but did not state whether additional staff had tested positive for the virus. Ms. Valley confirmed the additional positive cases in her email.
It was not immediately clear when the last time the six additional employees who have now tested positive were in the store. Ms. Valley had previously told the Gazette that none of the initial three employees who tested positive had worked since last Monday.
Based on preliminary contact tracing last Friday, health officials did not believe that the three initial cases reported at the store had been linked, with Ms. Valley and Mr. Bernier noting that at least two of the employees appeared to have external exposures to the virus.
But in a follow-up email Sunday, Ms. Valley confirmed that the nine cases now constituted a cluster, signalling that it is likely they are connected although the exact circumstances of the cluster had not been determined, she wrote.
“It is considered a cluster but we haven’t completely figured out the connections,” Ms. Valley wrote. “The first three cases did not appear to be connected but as more cases developed it became apparent that it was a cluster. We’re working with Steve Bernier to get a better idea of what the connections are and how best to deal with it.”
According to Ms. Valley, Mr. Bernier is working closely with Island health officials to curtail any further spread of the infection.
“We continue contact tracing and working with Steve Bernier to ensure that all employees are tested,” Ms. Valley wrote.
Mr. Bernier’s announcement did not indicate how long the store would remain closed, but he said in the statement that updates on the situation will be posted online via Facebook and Instagram.
“We’re going to take this day by day,” Mr. Bernier wrote. “Everyone’s safety is our number one priority!”