To Our Community,
As many of you are no doubt aware, this past Thursday, the federal government ordered sweeping new mandates in the hopes of curbing the surging COVID-19 delta variant. The mandates are relatively straightforward. Employers with more than 100 workers must either:
- require all employees to be vaccinated, or
- implement weekly testing for the unvaccinated.
To underscore how seriously the federal government wants to stamp out COVID, part of the mandate stipulates that businesses that do not implement either of these policies will face up to $14,000 in penalties per violation (e.g., per employee). For example, the Co-op has a reported vaccination rate of approximately 70%. If we were not to implement either mandatory testing or vaccinations, we could face financial penalties up to $1,680,000! That is serious money for any business and doubly so for our Co-op.
From the beginning of this pandemic I have stated time and time again, nothing is more important than the health of our employees, their families, and the communities we serve. We put protocols in place to ensure we have done everything we can to keep our community safe. We have followed the guidance of medical experts – the CDC, NIH, WHO and state and local medical authorities.
Rest assured we have no intention of stopping our vigilance to ensure your safety. We will continue to follow all federal, state, and local guidelines and mandates to the letter, including this one. Here is how we are going about it.
I have asked all employees who have been vaccinated to provide Human Resources with proof of vaccination status by this Friday, September 17, if they have not done so already. We want to have the most up-to-date accurate count as possible. Informing HR of vaccination status IS NOT a violation of an employee’s rights under HIPAA. If HR has not heard from an employee by that date, the Co-op will assume that employee has not received a vaccine.
At the end of the week, we will take an updated assessment of our vaccination rate, then weigh what makes the most sense for us—mandating vaccinations or implementing testing. A decision will be finalized and communicated next week.
Prior to this federal mandate, I had asked HR to obtain quotes on providing COVID testing to employees. We have received quotes of $100 per employee per test. The tests would be conducted on-site.
However, to satisfy the new federal mandate, this equates to approximately $5,200 per year per employee. As I mentioned before, our most recently reported vaccination rate stands at around 70 percent.
If that remains unchanged, to test every unvaccinated employee each week, it will cost our business nearly $625,000 a year! Not an insignificant sum of money for any business, let alone a low-margin business operating on razor-thin margins in a highly competitive landscape.
For information on COVID rates at the Co-op, I encourage you to check our COVID dashboard regularly. Our dashboard is designed to give you a quick, at-a-glance summary of the number of COVID cases within our cooperative community. Should we have a high-risk case that would require the closing of a location, we will continue to communicate that to employees and the general public immediately through email, social media, and our dashboard. For low-risk cases—such as a recent incident at the Co-op Market that did not require a store closing—we will share those updates through our dashboard.
My thanks to all of our members and shoppers for your support of the organization and its employees. None of us want to be in this situation. I wish I didn’t have to wear a mask, get a shot, or write about a pandemic. But I do, I have and will continue to do so. This is where we are at, and will be for some time to come. It is important to remember that we are all in this together.
The cooperative model is altruistic by design, and it encourages us to consider the collective good.
Be kind to one another and to yourselves. We look forward to serving you in our stores and at the curbside.
Onward and upward,