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Co-op will reinstate mask requirement at stores beginning Aug. 9

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 8/2/2021 9:34:41 PM
Modified: 8/2/2021 9:34:44 PM

HANOVER — That didn’t last long.

Citing “serious upticks in the incidence of the delta variant” in its service area, the Hanover Co-op announced on Monday that customers would be required again to wear masks inside its stores.

The revived policy goes into effect next Monday, Aug. 9, just 40 days after the Co-op lifted its mask requirement among employees and customers.

Other Upper Valley businesses and institutions said they are also weighing re-implementing a mask policy as the number of new COVID-19 cases rises amid the highly infectious delta variant, which an internal report for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said could be as contagious as chickenpox.

Paul Guidone, general manager of the Co-op, noted that people who are vaccinated can also catch and transmit the delta variant.

“Considering we are in the middle of summer now and people are very transitory coming in and out of the region, we don’t know who’s vaccinated and who’s not,” Guidone said. “I’m not prepared to take that chance in our stores.”

The Co-op has two stores in Hanover along with its flagship store in Lebanon and a fourth market in White River Junction. It also runs car repair shops in Hanover and Norwich.

Guidone said that 71% of Co-op employees are fully vaccinated and there have been no reports of anyone becoming infected with the delta variant or reports of exposure to the variant by customers and vendors.

“This is a preemptive measure to minimize risk,” saId Guidone, who on Friday flagged on the Co-op’s website that he might have to re-introduce a mask policy if infection rates continued to rise.

If and when other public-facing businesses that draw large numbers of people through their doors will require mask-wearing again will largely depend on what New Hampshire and Vermont require.

Jonathan Pierce, a spokesman for the Price Chopper chain, which has two stores in Lebanon and one in Windsor, said “at  this time” the company has not  changed in its mask-free policy but “we are continuing to monitor the ever-evolving state, local and CDC guidelines and will continue to follow them.”

Messages seeking comment from Shaw's and Hannaford supermarket were not returned Monday.

But a decision that was hailed earlier this summer as a victory lap that the worst of COVID-19 was in the past has quickly morphed to a realization that the pandemic has merely entered a new phase.

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said as of Monday afternoon she was not aware of other local businesses that are re-implementing mask-wearing “but everyone is talking about this issue.”

Griffen said via email that she supported the Co-op decision “100%” and “this is why we opted not to rescind (Hanover’s) mask ordinance but only to suspend it. My worry was that we might well need to reinstate it.  At the rate we are going, I would not be surprised if we do just that later this month.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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