LAKELAND, Fla. — Walmart will temporarily close a Lakeland location to allow for deep cleaning and give employees time to restock shelves amid the rise in COVID cases in the region.
The store at 5800 US-98 N is shutting down at 2 p.m. Thursday, with plans to reopen at 6 a.m. Saturday.
A company spokesperson said a third-party specialist would sanitize the store during the closure.
"Everything we’re doing is for the well-being of our associates and the thousands of customers we serve daily, and in consideration of guidance by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and health experts," Walmart wrote in a statement. "We will follow CDC guidance, which includes fully vaccinated people wearing masks in public indoor settings in counties with substantial or high transmission."
When the store reopens, Walmart said employee health assessments would continue as they have so far, and any unvaccinated workers will continue being required to wear face coverings.
"In addition to offering COVID-19 vaccines to customers through walk-in or online appointments, we’re also offering easy access to vaccines for associates," Walmart said. "Associates can receive their vaccinations at their home store pharmacy, on or off the clock. They’ll receive two hours of paid leave to receive their vaccination and up to three days paid leave, should they experience an adverse reaction."
The Tampa Bay region's recent rise in positive COVID test results is largely being blamed on the more transmissible, yet likely less severe, omicron variant. Between Dec. 24 and Dec. 30, the state's percent positivity for new cases reached 26.5 percent – the highest figure since the state's health department introduced the weekly editions of its COVID reports in June.
On Wednesday, the Florida Hospital Association reported the total number of people who were hospitalized statewide and had confirmed cases of coronavirus reached 7,305 – an increase of 682 since the day prior.
CDC data shows hospitalizations are rising in Florida but have not reached the levels of previous waves of the pandemic. Nearly 64 percent of Florida's population is fully-vaccinated, with about 75 percent of Floridians receiving at least one dose.