Coffeehouse chain Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is the latest consumer-facing company to defend workers from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The organization announced on Wednesday it would offer up to 14 days of paid leave if they or anyone they regularly come in contact with were exposed to the highly contagious disease.
Starbucks has already been impacted by the illness. A Seattle location was closed one day last week after a barista was diagnosed with COVID-19, while 13 other workers who may have been exposed are quarantined. The coffee venue has also discontinued the use of customers' reusable mugs.
The move mirrors those of companies similarly impacted by the coronavirus. Retailer Walmart revamped its sick-leave policy after an employee at a Kentucky store contracted the disease. In addition to the suspension of attendance rules, the organization made allowances for up to 26 weeks of paid leave should employees be unable to safely work for that long. MGM Resorts has temporarily closed seven different buffets at its hotels in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, and though nothing has been altered with the chain's policies yet, some McDonald's workers are clamoring for paid leave.
The responses from Starbucks and its foodservice peers are strong ones given that fewer than 1,000 U.S. cases have been reported, according to data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control. However, the caution may be merited considering how easily the coronavirus is spread. A sneeze or cough, rather than physical contact, appears to be enough to effectively transmit the disease from one person to another, leaving high-traffic areas like restaurants and stores particularly vulnerable.