I used to run cross country. Or at least, I tried. No matter how hard I practiced, those races never got easy. Mile after mile of huffing and sweating and pounding until all I could think about was surviving. And through my head, with every hill I crested or turn I rounded rang the chorus, “Is it over yet?”
And now, after two years and millions of Americans infected with COVID-19, we are asking the same question: Is it over yet?
With infection rates trending down, and case severity milder than at the onset of the pandemic, people are wondering if they can finally—finally—put the masks away and move on from COVID and the global pandemic.
The data is looking good. And as we move into the warmer months in the northern hemisphere, we should expect to see that trend continue. With vaccination rates and percent of population with immunity from previous infections both higher, the CDC is relaxing their direction on social distancing, mask usage, and school policies.
It may be risky to celebrate—who knows what new variant lurks ahead. And relaxing protection measures too soon could, according to some experts, send us back into a spiral of increasing infections, overloaded medical facilities, and increased public risk.
But for now, that risk seems to get smaller every day. Which means we have to decide, as a brand, how to balance the safety of our associates, our shoppers, and their families with the inconvenience and frustration of pandemic paranoia.
After reviewing feedback from international experts, and national and local medical authorities, I suggest the following changes to IGA store policies:
- Based on CDC and local health guidelines, IGA will no longer require masks for associates and shoppers in areas where community level is low, but employees will wear a mask to serve a shopper should it be requested of them. Check your local community level here.
- These policies are subject to change as local and national health conditions change.
- We will continue to enforce strict cleaning protocols to prevent infection spread in the future and to ensure the healthiest shopping environment for our employees and shoppers.
IGA has created new signage to help you communicate this change to shoppers. They are available for download here.
We know from market research during the pandemic that American shoppers believe that local and regional chains took their safety more seriously than national chains. It shows up in increased trust and quality scores for both IGA as a chain and the products we sell. And that’s a benefit we don’t want forgotten, even after masks and six-foot social distancing are faded memories!
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