Walmart is preparing to hire some 150,000 new staffers in its warehouses and stores and to pay its current workers bonuses as the company wrangles with the stepped-up demand from shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The retailer is also planning to begin piloting drive-up coronavirus testing in Chicago as early as Friday, focusing on health care workers and first responders. Testing sites are expected to spread to parking lots of Walmart, Walgreens and other retailers to help U.S. state and federal officials step up testing.

Walmart is working with restaurant and hospitality groups to perhaps hire people who are facing layoffs and furloughs. The jobs are expected to be temporary through May, but "many will convert to permanent roles over time," the company said. The retailer is expediting its hiring process to be as fast as one day.

Walmart's hiring announcement comes just days after Amazon said it would hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers to keep up with online-shopping demand. Many malls and retail brands meanwhile have had to shutter stores. Walmart and other supermarkets have been restricting hours to give workers time to clean, restock and rest during the onslaught of shoppers.

The retailer, which is the largest private employer in the country, plans to spend $550 million on bonuses for its current workers. That includes an earlier payout of a quarterly bonus as well as a special cash bonus of $300 for full-time workers and $150 for part-time workers employed by Walmart as of March 1.

Asked whether Walmart is at all considering closing stores, Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs, said the company "will do everything in our power to maintain open doors." He cited the company's experience in China, where its stores had to adjust to more online deliveries and other changes, but remained open.

Editor's note: Walmart is among NPR's latest financial supporters.

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