‘I was shocked’: COVID-19 surge prompts closures at Polk County Walmart, city hall

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A new surge of a highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 is causing some businesses, governments to close their doors to the public to slow the spread.

In March 2020, America was stunned by the sudden closure of schools, movie theatres, theme parks and sporting events.

In January 2022, closures are still occurring, but on a smaller scale.

“I came here and for the first time ever I saw Walmart closed so it kind of surprised me,” said Miller Fernandez, who lives in Auburndale. “I find it’s OK if they close for one day for cleaning purposes. No problem with that.”

“I was shocked. I had never come to Walmart and it was closed before. I was excited. There was no one in the parking lot. Now I know why,” said April Motsinger, who lives in Auburndale.

In a statement, a Walmart spokesperson said the Auburndale store on U.S. Hwy 92 would close as several areas in the country have seen a “renewed increase in positive COVID-19 cases.”

“This will allow extra time for a third-party specialist to further sanitize the store and will also give our associates additional time to restock shelves and prepare the store to once again serve the community,” read part of the statement from Walmart.

The Walmart Supercenter in Auburndale will reopen Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 6 a.m.

Meanwhile, closed signs hang on a locked door outside Polk City City Hall.

“This is not our first time closing during COVID,” said city manager Patricia Jackson.

Jackson made the decision to again close city hall and the library to the public as COVID-19 started to spread through the city’s 23-person staff.

“It’s because of how small we are that if all of us get sick, we couldn’t function as a city so that’s why we’re doing this is to protect everyone,” said Jackson.

Jackson said city employees are still working and services are still being provided to residents.

Jackson plans to reopen the facilities to the public next week but will decide on Friday.

The latest data from the state shows Polk County reported 7,524 new COVID-19 infections in the week ending Dec. 30.

“Struck, shocked, dismayed when I saw the numbers from last Friday. With how quickly it escalated, I was shocked,” said Dr. Joy Jackson, Fla. Dept. of Health in Polk County director.

Dr. Jackson said daily case counts have risen in the days since the last state report, but she could not release those numbers.

In the last seven days, more than 10,000 people got tested at Nomi Health’s three testing sites in Polk County.

The department of health’s site in Auburndale tested approximately 300 people Monday, according to Dr. Jackson.

(Click here for more information on the testing sites available in Polk County)

“What we’re hearing is that most people that have the omicron are not as severely ill as we saw with delta but still it should not be taken lightly,” said Dr. Jackson.

Hospitals are seeing an increase in COVID-positive patients but the numbers are not as high as during the delta variant’s peak this summer.

“They’ve got fewer people on ventilators than with delta, fewer overall admissions related to COVID but it’s probably still a little bit early,” said Dr. Jackson.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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