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Nearly half of Riverside County’s coronavirus outbreaks linked to grocery stores

Riverside County Public Health officials say nearly half of the county's coronavirus outbreaks were in grocery stores.

Public Health Director Kim Saruwatari told the Board of Supervisors earlier this week that the highest number of coronavirus outbreaks in Riverside County from July to September reportedly stem from grocery stores.

Contact tracers found 48 outbreaks during the three-month span.

As for "Large Outbreaks," or businesses that were linked to five coronavirus cases ore more, 18 of the 53 outbreaks were from grocery stores.

County public health officials say with these outbreaks, grocery store employees could be at the highest risk.

"Grocery stores are one of the few businesses that have been open the whole time so it may not be that they're more dangerous, just that they've been open and had more opportunity," said Michael Osur, chief health strategists for the Riverside County Department of Public Health. "People want to come to work and sometimes they come to work when they're ill or they think it's only an allergy or it might be a cold and we find many times people are coming to work and exposing the people at work."

"Unfortunately during COVID the best employees are the ones that stay home when they're sick and changing that culture has been a challenge," Osur added.

County officials said this data is missing certain sectors, including agriculture and food processing, where people were afraid to talk to contact tracers. They also added that the risk for most grocery store shoppers is low.

Health officials say to just come in prepared with a list of what you need to buy and minimize your time in the store to 15 minutes and you should be fine.

The county will continue to follow up with problem businesses to prevent future outbreaks.

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Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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