CORONAVIRUS

Walmart, Hy-Vee want to beef up with 10,000 new hires

A shopper looks at a cleaned-out toilet paper aisle in a Phoenix Walmart Supercenter on Friday. (Associated Press)
A shopper looks at a cleaned-out toilet paper aisle in a Phoenix Walmart Supercenter on Friday. (Associated Press)

Walmart is hiring 150,000 temporary workers and readying its parking lots for coronavirus tests as the world’s largest retailer girds itself to deal with the unprecedented challenges of the fast-spreading outbreak.

The vast majority of the new employees will work in stores and many will become permanent staff over time, Walmart said in a statement Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee issued a statement late Friday saying it aims to hire “temporary, part-time hourly employees to help fill multiple positions in stores across its eight-state region as well as its distribution centers located in Chariton, Iowa, and Cherokee, Iowa.”

The retailer, in an emailed statement, added that, “those who may have temporarily lost their job due to the current pandemic, are out of school, want to make additional money, or simply want to help during this time are welcome to apply at Hy-Vee.”

Walmart announced is slated to begin virus tests in the Chicago area this weekend, primarily for health care workers and first responders, in conjunction with medical officials and drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance.

“Everything is ready to go,” Dan Bartlett, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, said on a call with reporters. “We have the tents. It should be up and running soon.”

He said that the company is talking to governors’ offices to get permission to expand testing sites to other states.

While retailers such as Macy’s and Kohl’s have been forced to close all their stores, others such as Walmart and Costco are experiencing a surge in traffic normally seen only around the holiday peak.

Walmart’s supply chain was “catching its breath,” Bartlett said, while its grocery curbside pickup service has been “slammed.”

Initial demand for water and paper products has shifted over to food, with many Americans needing to eat all their meals at home as restaurants close.

“We’re trying to find where the new normal is,” Bartlett said. “We’re not sure we’ve hit it yet.”

Walmart, the nation’s biggest private employer with 1.5 million associates, will seek to hire people who’ve been let go from jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industries.

The company will have plenty of applicants, as filings for unemployment benefits are poised to surge to a record 2.25 million this week, according to Goldman Sachs Group. Bank of America said it could be as high as 3 million.

The new hires will be split between Walmart’s 4,750 U.S. stores and its network of about 150 distribution centers.

The move comes days after rival Amazon.com said it plans to hire 100,000 additional people.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus testing at Walmart parking lots is set to begin as soon as this weekend for first responders.

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Federal and state health officials will administer the tests initially, with the company’s staff “watching and learning,” Bartlett said.

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