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Upper Valley restaurants, grocery stores wait on COVID-19 shots

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2021 9:26:51 PM
Modified: 3/25/2021 9:26:54 PM

HANOVER — Though some front-line workers in the Twin States have been able to get COVID-19 vaccination shots — including health care workers; teachers and other school employees; corrections officers and first responders — grocery workers and others in food service have been left behind.

“It just makes no sense to me,” said Paul Guidone, general manager of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society, which has stores in Hanover, Lebanon and White River Junction, as well as service centers in Hanover and Norwich and a kitchen in Wilder.

Guidone noted that grocery workers have “constant contact with the public,” which puts them at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.

Just last week, the Co-op Market on Lyme Road closed for four days after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 and four of the approximately 15 other employees at the store had to quarantine as close contacts. The store has since reopened, but is operating for limited hours until next week.

In total, the Co-op has had five cases among employees and one in vendors, according to its dashboard. Those numbers could have been higher, Guidone said.

“Protocols have been very strict,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate.”

Some employees, who qualify due to age or medical conditions, have been able to get the shots, and the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley has invited workers who are eligible to participate a vaccine clinic this weekend, Guidone said. Still, he said that still leaves out most younger workers.

Nicole Bartner, who owns the Hartland Diner, is 52, which means she will be eligible to sign up for a shot in Vermont beginning on Monday.

But, she said, “everyone else who’s a front-line worker (who’s) not 50 is still screwed.” That includes two teenage workers who help her on weekends.

Bartner, who said the diner’s revenue has plunged two-thirds amid the pandemic, said she’s unlikely to reopen beyond takeout, curbside pickup and the 50% capacity restriction inside the restaurant until she’s fully vaccinated, even if the state guidelines change before then.

“I’m doing everything that I can to avoid any of us getting (COVID-19),” she said.

As the stress of the pandemic wears on, Guidone said he’s concerned for both the physical and mental well-being of grocery workers.

Guidone said he is watching now that case counts are beginning to tick up again, as the states have begun to relax some restrictions on businesses such as bars. He noted that when the states have relaxed restrictions in the past, cases have surged.

“Do we not learn from that?” he asked.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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