The Hard Work to Return to Normalcy

To Our Community,

We are 15 months on from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, over this period of time, we put into place many policies and procedures to protect our collective community— employees, shoppers and vendors alike.

Our policies have been effective as evidenced by only 2 employees having tested positive for COVID-19 while at work during those 15 months. And not a single employee who was in close contact with affected individuals subsequently tested positive.

This is a remarkable metric given 15 months of operating a business during a pandemic and before vaccinations became available.

Now, with vaccinations available to everyone over 12, the C.D.C. dashboard reports, as of June 2nd, 2021, the percent of the population in the U.S.A. fully vaccinated stands at 41%, with New Hampshire and Vermont at 49% and 56%, respectively. This is promising progress in a short period of time. Estimates from infectious disease experts on the percent of the population that needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity ranges from 70% to 90%. In short, we have more progress to make and it is up to all of us to do our part.

That said, the leadership team has begun a comprehensive review of all COVID-19 policies put in place since March 2020. Our goal is to begin thinking about what policies can be relaxed and when.

Here are the salient points regarding where things stand today:

  • Mask mandates and all social-distancing policies remain unchanged until we can be confident that our business environment is safe. How do we determine this? It is not by listening to the loudest voices (pro or con) or being influenced by any sociopolitical (conservative or liberal) pressures. Our criteria is to continue to be guided by the hard data from science, particularly herd immunity at the national, state, local, and regional levels, as reported by the C.D.C.
  • We are building a matrix of all policies so we can review them one at a time. Two policies that we may be able to relax soon are the employee travel policies and the ban on in-store returns. I hope to have more to say on these two policies late next week.
  • Changes to any Co-op policy will apply to everyone—employees, vendors, and shoppers.
  • There are no plans to change our vaccination policy. As a reminder, our approach is to strongly encourage, not mandate, all employees to do their part in helping to keep our community safe by becoming vaccinated. Employees who have been vaccinated are asked to provide a copy of their vaccination card to Human Resources. As I have stated many times, the information will only be used for reporting data—numbers, not names—to health officials upon request.

I think I speak for all of us when I say how much I long for a return to normalcy. And I am encouraged that we are beginning to take steps in that direction. As we do, the steps we take will be slow, safe, and measured. We did not implement these policies with the flip of a switch, and we will not relax them that way either.

I would like to thank the many employees and members who have reached out to me to share your feelings about this. I respect all opinions. That said, I am also glad to see the support for our safety policies far exceeds any calls for removing them. As this article in the June 2 issue of the New York Times indicates, that reflects the view of many within our industry as a whole. To quote one frontline worker from the article, who succinctly summarized what it feels like to face thousands of unmasked customers who may or may not be vaccinated, “We just feel like we’re sitting ducks.”

No Co-op employee, shopper or vendor is going to feel this way on my watch. We all have a part to play—the sooner we play it, the sooner we get back to normal.

In short, we are being careful, but not inflexible. I believe this is the safest route to take moving forward. As we do that, like everyone else, I look forward to the day we do not have to wear masks. I also look forward to the day I do not have to write about them!

Affordable Housing

On a very positive note, I would like to update all of you on our Co-op’s affordable housing work. If affordable housing is a concern of yours, take 45 minutes to watch this video. (The presentation begins at 02:50, after the introductions.) Public and Government Affairs Director Allan Reetz moderated this webinar panel discussion on the lack of affordable places for people to live.

  • It includes ideas and actions that you can take.
  • It tells the story behind the headlines.
  • It gives details that describe some of the reasons housing became a problem, barriers that stand in the way of solutions, and the people working to increase availability of affordable housing.

Our cooperative is among those dedicated to making things better.

Wrap Up

As always, I thank all of our members and shoppers for the continued support. Always feel free to reach out to me anytime. In the meantime, remember to be kind to one another and to yourselves. We look forward to serving you in our stores and at the curbside.

Onward and upward,

Paul

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Paul Guidone

Paul Guidone

Paul Guidone, CFA, spent the better part of four decades in the investment management business here and abroad. He held positions ranging from analyst through Deputy Chairman and Group CEO, at organizations such as Citigroup (US) and The HSBC Group (London and Hong Kong). He joined the Co-op in 2016 as the CFO and in 2018 became Strategic Advisor to the General Manager. Paul was appointed by the Co-op Board as interim General Manager in March 2020 and General Manager in September 2020. To contact, email PGuidone@coopfoodstore.com.