From the General Manager, May 21, 2021

Employees practicing social distancing

Last week we responded to the changes in CDC and State mask guidance by quickly issuing statements that the Co-op was not changing our own policies. Many members and shoppers responded favorably and some had questions and concerns. Now we all face an inconsistent and sometimes confusing landscape of masking expectations, wondering when things will return to normal. Here is a little more information on how we view this topic at our Co-op and where we see things going:

First, the Montpelier city ordinance that requires masks indoors is still in effect. It looks likely that the City Council will consider the ordinance at their May 26 meeting.

We have also been advised that a mask requirement is prudent given OSHA’s mandate to provide a safe workplace generally and specifically as a COVID-19 prevention program. We are awaiting further interpretation of OSHA regulations.

Ultimately, we will base our policies on our understanding of the risk to our community of employees, members, shoppers, and local vendors. We closely monitor county and state new COVID case data in addition to vaccination rates. While the trends are encouraging, there is still too much community spread of the disease to lift restrictions now. As of this writing, we are still experiencing six new cases daily in Washington County, which is up from last week.

Further, consider:

  • Not all adults and adolescents who want to be vaccinated, including some Co-op employees, have had a chance to complete the process. Hopefully, another month or so will resolve that issue.
  • Our community includes a large number of young people who do not yet have the option to be vaccinated.
  • Folks who are immunocompromised may be vaccinated but may not produce sufficient antibodies to be protected.

Why not let those of us who are fully vaccinated shop and work without masks? Partly this has to do with not having a reasonable and reliable way of checking vaccination status, leaving it to a community-wide honor system. Also, as a community hub and busy retail store, we need people to feel comfortable here, whether shopping or working. Finally, one of the silver linings of this past year is how we unified around protecting ourselves; differing expectations for different groups, especially when health is at stake, is likely to be divisive.

All this points to giving our Co-op community more time to become vaccinated and reduce the spread of COVID-19. The inconvenience of mask-wearing is real, but we believe the tradeoff makes it well worth it. For over a year now, we have been largely successful in preventing mass spread of COVID in large part because of masks. Let’s continue for a while longer and finish the job.

Thank you for everything you are doing to keep yourself and our community safe. Thank you for supporting our Co-op.

Kari Bradley, General Manager