Planning & Preparedness at our Co-op

By: LeAnna Nieratko, General Manager | 2020-03-12

We recognize that our co-op serves an essential function in the Erie community; many people rely on us for groceries and wellness needs. We hold a special sense of responsibility to ensure we can still provide for you while keeping our staff and community safe. Health and safety are our top priority for everyone.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout the country, Whole Foods Co-op is taking action to help protect shoppers and our employees.

Our management team is closely monitoring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials in our area and will rely on their recommendations and expertise to inform our decisions.

Based on that advice, we are:

  • Increasing the frequency and rigor of cleaning and sanitizing the sales floor, back stock areas, and offices.
  • Moving all transactions to our central registers and discontinuing transactions at our cafe counter.
  • Having our cashiers wear gloves and change them frequently
  • Ordering up on high demand items, such as all-purpose cleaners and sanitizers, and non-perishable grocery items like bottled water, beans, pasta, etc. Though certain items are out of stock from our distributors, we will do our best to keep alternatives on the shelves.
  • Suspending our reusable silverware/mug programs
  • Communicating our preparedness plan to staff which addresses their own wellness and potential changes to operations.
  • Ensuring there is plenty of hand sanitizer throughout the store, including our customer service desk, cafe counter, wellness counter and throughout the store.
  • Continuing to provide sanitizing wipes for you to wipe down your cart before you use it. While our employees do their best to wipe down all of our carts, self-wiping adds an extra layer of protection.
  • Extra sanitation throughout the store continues to be emphasized and enforced. We also encourage folks to frequently and diligently employ hand-washing as a means to prevent the spread of any bacteria or germs.
  • We have suspended all passive sampling.
  • We are telling staff to stay home when they are sick and we will issue no disciplinary action to staff for absences during this time.
  • Open for business.

We are requesting that:

  • If you are sick with a cough or have come into contact with someone who may be infected, please send someone else to the store on your behalf.
  • Please use hand sanitizer throughout your visit to the store.
  • Refrain from using your reusable jars/mugs from home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why aren’t you wearing surgical masks or respirators?

According to the CDC

"At this time, the CDC is NOT recommending use of surgical masks or respirators by the general public, except as recommended by a healthcare professional or by persons infected with COVID-19 or caring for someone who is infected or suspected to be infected."

We do take personal choice very seriously, so employees are permitted to wear their personal surgical masks or respirators if they choose. We also are staying informed about this and will take all precautions and recommendations in this regard as they become known.

All this glove changing and not being allowed to use my reusable mug… aren't you worried about the environment?

The decision to suspend the use of reusable mugs, silverware, and increase single-use glove usage through-out the store was a difficult one. We are firmly committed to the environment and reducing waste, yet when we started researching the potential impacts on communities who are hard hit by this virus, we made the hard decision that these temporary measures could be life saving for the immunocompromised in our community. We fully intend to reinstate our environmental initiatives as soon as we are able.

Are you planning to remain open?

We are aware that we are an essential community business. We intend to stay open unless we experience significant and unmitigatable supply chain disruptions or in the case that we are told by local officials that we must close.

In order to maintain operations for the good of our staff and community, we may have to alter or suspend certain practices and will communicate any time that becomes necessary. This may come as a result of staffing issues, government recommendations, or supply chain issues.

As circumstances continue to develop, we will make our decisions with the health and well-being of our member-owners, customers, employees, and community as top priority.

Additional Resources

  1. CDC
  2. World Health Organization (WHO)
  3. World Health Organization Mythbusters Page

If you wish to contact the co-op for this or any reason, please email us at or call 814-456-0282.