June 11, 2020
Galen on evolving COVID-19 measures
Last week I had the chance to see my parents for the first time since the lockdown began. We met briefly in their backyard. My father’s health is not good and my mother is still recovering from hip surgery she had before the lockdown – so they are both high-risk. I did my best to maintain social distancing, but it was tough. At one point my father struggled to take off his jacket. I sat in my chair, keeping two meters back, while my mother tried to help him. Finally, I decided to slip my mask on and go over to help. As soon as his jacket was off, I returned to the appropriate distance. The whole thing was so frustrating and awkward.
As the weather improves and certain lockdowns ease, I know many of us are thinking about how to get outside and expand our personal bubbles bit by bit. What is clear is that we all have our own sense of the space we need to feel comfortable. That was clear in the hundreds of responses I received following my last letter about gradually easing some COVID-related measures in our stores. Many of you are concerned about returning to normal too quickly. Many say it’s something we should have done weeks ago. In every case, your messages have been a good reminder that the pandemic looks and feels different depending on who you are and where in the country you live. I thought I would share a few updates on how we’re approaching the re-opening of the economy and ways we can continue to keep people safe.
We are a national company with thousands of grocery stores and Shoppers Drug Mart locations in thousands of communities. Until recently, we responded to COVID-19 by applying similar precautions in all stores. A quick, blanket response to the pandemic was right. Today, knowing that the situation is different province to province and city to city, we are now taking a more targeted approach. One frequent topic has been masks. Masks are now available to every one of our colleagues, no matter where they work. There are lots of parts of the country with no new cases, so we are not insisting on wearing them. But, we’re watching hot zones very carefully, and requiring mask use in certain stores. For example, masks are mandatory for colleagues in our Fortinos, T&T, Loblaws and City Market stores in Toronto, and Provigo stores in Montreal. As we move forward, we will continue to scale our activities based on the local status of the pandemic and the advice of local public health authorities.
To help you stay informed about the status of your local store, check our website to find updated lists of locations where you should expect to see colleagues wearing masks, and where customers will be strongly encouraged to do so as well. The site will also be the place to check for any locations where a colleague has tested positive for the virus.
Finally, as the economy slowly reopens and Canadians begin to return to work, we believe it is the right time to end the temporary pay premium we introduced at the beginning of the pandemic. Things have now stabilized in our supermarkets and drug stores. After extending the premium multiple times, we are confident our colleagues are operating safely and effectively in a new normal. We are proud to be recognized as one of Canada’s best places to work. I continue to be a strong believer in a progressive minimum wage and would support any government-led effort to establish a living wage. My heartfelt thanks to every one of our colleagues for their incredible efforts during the peak of the crisis.
As we work through the next phases of the pandemic, I will remain in touch to update you on anything new we’re doing in our business and in our stores. Your safety and the well-being of our colleagues remain our top priority.