Masks May Be Coming Back. Here is Where We Are Now.

To Our Community,

Today’s message would ordinarily recap the material I presented to the Board last night. However, given the news cycle over the past 36 to 48 hours, I am returning to a familiar topic today. Please read on as the information is important and impacts us all.


It has been difficult not to follow the news on the COVID-19 pandemic and our latest nemesis, the Delta variant. As you undoubtedly know, nationwide COVID rates are rising, vaccination levels are lower than hoped for, and the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus has public health officials rightly concerned. The result is that communities nationwide are reconsidering bringing back mask mandates that were lifted only a few weeks ago, and businesses are reconsidering when employees should return to work at their office buildings.

Here in the Upper Valley, thankfully the situation is not as bleak at the moment. But clearly there is need for caution and vigilance. Below is a snapshot of data from our region, updated through yesterday. The information comes from the website COVID ActNow, which presents at-a-glance data sourced from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The New York Times, and official state and county dashboards. I have selected these counties in particular as the greatest proportion of our employees and shoppers reside there, making these data critically important to all of us.

What can we take from these data? I will put it candidly: When it comes to reinstituting mask mandates at the Co-op, given the rising trend in infection rates, it is my belief that if this trend continues it will not be a question of if, but when.

And make no mistake, as I have stated before, I will, without hesitation or reservation, reinstitute our masks policies across the board for employees, vendors, and shoppers if that is what is needed to keep our cooperative community safe.

Are we there yet? Thankfully, no. So in the meantime, my message to you, as one human being to another, is to take strong, proactive, common-sense precautions. If you have not been vaccinated yet, please do so. Follow social distancing guidelines. Avail yourself of our curbside service Groceries-2-Go. And if you want to wear a mask, regardless of your vaccination status, know that it is welcome and you will be fully supported in your decision. Wearing a mask is a personal, individual choice. As for me, when you see me in the stores, I will be wearing a mask.

Code of Conduct

On a related topic, frontline workers know well that mask-usage is a polarizing topic that challenges the way people treat one another. Moving forward, to help establish clear guidelines, the leadership team has established a code of conduct for both shoppers and employees. I encourage all of our shoppers to review it here. I hope this will not only help set concise expectations for behavior, but that it will provide for a pleasant shopping experience for all.

Wrap Up

My thanks to all of our members and shoppers for the continued support. If you have any questions about masks, the code of conduct, or anything else, please do not hesitate to reach out to me anytime. We will talk again next Thursday. Until then remember, we will get through this just as we have gotten through everything else.

As always, be kind to one another and to yourselves, and we look forward to serving you in our stores and at the curbside.

Onward and upward,


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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

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