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Texas Apple store closes due to COVID-19 outbreak

The store may have asked staff to come in while infected.
TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 26: The Apple store employee helps customers during Black Friday at International Plaza on November 26, 2021 in Tampa, United States. More shoppers are expected to shop in than last year after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the quietest Black Friday in 20 years. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
Octavio Jones/Getty Images
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|December 9, 2021 5:12 PM

Apple has generally been cautious in dealing with COVID-19 even as it loosens store policies, but that apparently wasn't enough to prevent an outbreak among staff. NBC News reports the Apple store in Southlake, Texas is closed until December 13th after 22 workers tested positive for the illness. Four employees tested positive right after Black Friday, NBC learned, and the cases appear to have spread.

Affected workers will have to isolate for 10 days and go two days without symptoms before they can return, according to a virtual team meeting. Everyone returning on the 13th will have to take a rapid antigen COVID-19 test the day before.

There are concerns the outbreak might have been avoidable. One worker at Southlake said it was difficult to maintain social distancing even before Black Friday, while others said they were encouraged to come to work even when they reported COVID-like symptoms in a mandatory survey. Staffers were also incorrectly told they couldn't claim special sick leave unless they tested positive.

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We've asked Apple for comment on these reports. In a statement to NBC, a spokesperson focused on an overall "comprehensive approach" to safety that included regular testing, masks, cleaning and paid leave.

Apple has faced accusations of poor retail employee treatment in the past, including (discontinued) off-the-clock bag searches. There may be multiple factors at work in this case, however. Whether or not the leadership was responsible, staff are reportedly concerned there's too much pressure to meet certain sales targets. Managers may feel compelled to put sick staff to work rather than risk falling short of store goals.

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