Letter: The Davis Food COOP Should Immediately Require Both Customers and Employees to Wear Face Coverings

If you are a Davis Food COOP shopper and agree with me that the Davis Food COOP should immediately implement a policy to require both customers and employees to wear face coverings inside the store, please contact the General Manager and the Board.  Wherever you shop for groceries in Davis, please demand the same of your store, and please do so today. --acm

by Alan C. MIller

[An open letter to the Davis Food COOP]                         

Dear Davis Food COOP  General Manager, Board Members and Managers,

On the evening of Tuesday, April 7th, I went to the COOP to shop for groceries.  This was fully four days after the White House had recommended that the public wear face-coverings (FC) in enclosed public spaces to prevent the spread of droplets that could contain the Coronavirus (CV) — this was almost immediately adopted as recommended at the State and County levels as well.

I was shocked that about 60% of the customers in the store wore no FCs, and I also counted three employees, one stocking produce, wearing no FC.  I had assumed that the COOP and all grocery stores would mandate FCs for anyone inside the store.  I was incensed, and glared hate at the selfish shoppers from behind my FC.  The only advantage I could see in having some shoppers not wearing FCs was that these same people were for the most part were not observing social distancing either, so the selfish, sociopathic and uncaring could be easily spotted and given a very wide berth.

I talked to the floor manager on duty, and asked why FCs were not required for customers, and shockingly not for employees stocking produce.  He said he wasn’t sure, but possibly they were concerned about losing market share if they didn’t allow people in without FCs.  To his credit, he was wearing a very impressive mask.

I didn’t want to return to the COOP and vowed to do something about this, but figured the COOP must just be slow to implement the policy.  Then on Friday, April 10th, a week after the Whitehouse recommendation, I read in the Davis Enterprise a letter from an appreciative Nugget customer:

Kudos to Nugget Market for helping to keep our community safer than the rest. Requiring their staff as well as their customers to wear face masks or coverings in this challenging time is brave and the absolute right thing to do.

OK, the cool stores in town are adapting; “I’m sure the COOP has the same policy now”, I thought.  On the evening of Saturday April 11th, I went to the COOP and checked the front door before going in.  No sign about FCs.  I stood back away from the doors and watched people going into the store for a couple of minutes.  Not one of the people I saw going in, all in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, were wearing any FCs whatsoever.  Then, as if on cue, a elderly couple probably in their 80’s, slowly made their way out of the COOP, pushing a shopping cart.

NO!!!  People, that’s not how it works!  The masks don’t protect the old people from the virus, the young and healthy all wearing masks is what protects the old people and those at risk.  If there ever was a place that I’d expect the phrase “We’re All in this Together” to apply, it’s at the Davis Food COOPERATIVE.  Instead, the descriptive phrase of our customers (us) appears be, “We don’t give an [expletive deleted] about old and sick people, they can die for all we care”.

But who is most at risk of contracting the virus in the store setting?  The front-line staff employees who are out on the floor all day long; do you, as managers not care about your staff’s well being?  Just because they are mostly relatively young does not mean that none of them have CV-susceptible health issues.  The primary transmission method for CV is thought to be from exhaled breath droplets containing the viurs. FCs are believed to reduce this transmission, so that if ONE asymptomatic person comes into the store, there is a reduced chance THEY will transmit it to someone else.  COOP staff on the floor are exposed to hundreds of rando people each day. A mandatory FC policy for customers protects COOP staff.

Grocery workers everywhere are in a perilous position:

As more of them die, grocery workers increasingly fear showing up for work” — Washington Post headline, Sunday, April 12th, 2020.

Another source reported that 41 grocery employees have died nationwide from CV.  A mandatory FC policy for customers helps to protect our COOP floor workers.

On Monday, Sonoma County announced a countywide policy of mandatory FCs for all persons in enclosed public spaces.  Does the COOP really have to be so far behind the policy curve and wait one more day?  How many times have we heard, ‘if only we had done X two weeks earlier, how many lives would have been saved?’.

And if a COOP worker does get CV, every other worker exposed to that worker will have to go into two-week quarantine.  Word will get out to the media and people will avoid the COOP.  The store may have to shut down for a time for sterilization, fresh product will be thrown out, and remaining staff will be stressed, stretched-thin and scared.  Safeway can survive if that happens to one of their stores – can the COOP?

The time to require FCs at the COOP is now.  What if one of those maskless people I saw going into the store last Tuesday infected a maskless store employee in produce who is now asymptomatic?  And what if that employee got slightly too close to those two elderly people I saw coming out of the store on Saturday, and they die next week at Sutter hospital after painful intubation.  Wouldn’t you have wished the COOP had initiated a mandotory FC policy a week earlier?  The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, the second best time is today.

Those two elderly people were wearing FCs and that helped protect us; why were we all not wearing FCs to protect them?  Hyperbolic? – perhaps, but perhaps not:  this policy is life and death, not something we often deal with as a COOP.  Any single transmission may become someone’s fatality, and any reasonable action by the COOP to reduce the chance of a contact should be implemented.


Alan C. Miller

Alan C. Miller is a 40-year resident of Davis and a 35-year fully-invested member of the Davis Food COOP.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Tia Will

    I fully respect Alan’s desire for us all to pull together in this time of national medical crisis. But this is not about what the “Cool People” are doing. This is about inconsistency and confusion of messaging. It is about what is known to work and what may or may not work. It is also about whether doing “everything we can” includes doing things that have no scientific basis because we think they “might” work.

    This was a topic at yesterday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting, which I summarized for publication, but then sent the wrong copy to David. My apologies.

    The issue is per Dr. Chapman, the County Health Officer:

    Face coverings, as opposed to N-95 masks that are fitted and tested, are not demonstrated to provide safety against viral spread. There is no protection for the wearer and “may or may not” provide any safety for others coming in contact with the wearer. Because of their demonstrated lack of efficacy, no local nor county directive has been made despite the federal messaging.

    The concern with the recommendation to wear face coverings is that they may be seen by members of the public as substitutes for the stay at home order. The most critical directive is for those who have any symptoms including nasal secretions, cough, sore throat, fever or any symptomatic breathing ( even if they think it is just a cold) is to stay home. I repeat stay home. Given the federal messaging, the county health department will be sending out copies of the federal guidelines. However, I would point out these are recommendations, not directives, just as was the personal recommendation for the use of hydroxychloroquine.

    This is not a case of the Co-op being careless, it is a case of it following the guidelines as previously published by the County Health Department. Of course, any individual is welcome to follow additional recommendations as they chose as long as they are also fully adherent to the directives which are not elective and are not using equipment needed by first responders and health care personnel.


  2. Richard McCann


    I have to disagree on a fundamental point–people (at least some) NEED to leave to their homes and go to the grocery store to purchase basic necessities such as food. At this point, shoppers will have interactions with employees. As shown in this video, even the action of conversing spreads vapor droplets that could be infected (see at 2:00 and watch to the end on how to disperse.) https://vimeo.com/402577241

    This means that regardless of whether it appears to encourage people to go out, face masks are a necessity in grocery stores. Remember that much of the transmission has been by asymptomatic individuals. (A study released today estimates that as many as 46% of New Yorkers may have been infected. The estimate may be problematic, but the potential scale is there.) The County guidelines are inadequate on this point, and a business isn’t constrained to meeting only those guidelines.

  3. Alan Miller

    [Email to City Council]

    April 17th, 2020

    “Facial coverings will be ‘new normal’ as of next week in Berkeley, Bay Area”

    Stricter rules requiring facial coverings in nearly all situations outside the home are expected to be announced Friday in Berkeley and other Bay Area counties to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

    Update, 6:15 p.m. Berkeley has issued its order. See the details. The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

    Source:  berkeleyside.com


    So, City Council, what are you waiting for now?

    • Dr. Chapman?
    • Pride, in that we can throw a rock over Putah Creek and hit the Bay Area, but aren’t actually in it?
    • A few extra days of community virus-spread in city grocery stores so we can get our fatality numbers up in our competition with Woodland and West Sacramento?

    What, exactly, are you waiting for???

    –Alan “The Jerk” Miller

  4. Alan Miller

    [Email to City Council]

    April 17th, 2020

    Source:  KQED.ORG

    Significant snippets from the article:

    • All San Francisco residents and workers will soon be required to wear face coverings at grocery stores, medical offices and other essential businesses and on public transit as part of the city’s increasingly aggressive efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.  Essential businesses will also be required to refuse service to any customers who are not covering their faces.

    • On Friday, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties issued similar face-covering mandates — with enforcement also set to begin next Wednesday — and San Mateo County officials were expected to follow suit. Sonoma County announced its face covering requirement earlier this week.

    • “By wearing masks or face coverings when interacting with other people in public, San Franciscans will be less likely to transmit the coronavirus to one another,” said San Francisco city Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax.

    • Marin County Health Officer Matt Willis said:  “One of the reasons this is so important is that we’re learning more and more about the risk of transmission of this virus from people who are not having symptoms,” noting that people who become sick can become contagious for up to two days before showing symptoms. “The good news is that a simple facial covering with cloth will effectively reduce spreading droplets into the environment.”

    • Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said he is also weighing a statewide face-covering order as he considers how to reopen the state, and praised local efforts.


    City Council,

    Note the comments by the public health officers in both Marin and San Francisco Counties on why mandatory wearing of masks does reduce the spread of coronavirus.  Note that Newsom is praising these mandatory face-covering policies while considering a statewide face-covering order himself.

    However, keep listening to Dr. Chapman.  I’m sure he knows what is best for our backward little county.

    –Alan “The Jerk” Miller

  5. Alan Miller


    Council & Supervisors,

    Here is the statement from the Berkeley Health Officer:


    After reading this, how can you not take immediate action for Yolo County?  Do you believe the laws of physics and the infectiousness of a virus are different for Yolo County?

    I’ve heard this crisis and community response in less-effected areas (like Yolo County) compared to a skyscraper on fire.  In normal circumstances, you evacuate the building.  But the 83rd floor has been burning for months now, and the fire has only spread to the 84th through 93rd floors, so down on the 20th floor (Yolo County) — “What, Me Worry?” – we go on about business as usual.

    To carry the metaphor further, each floor has a fire chief.  The one on the 83rd floor died in the fire, the floors above and below the burning floors were evacuated by their fire chiefs.  More and more, fire chiefs on nearby floors are catching on and evacuating their floors, some even warning that the building might collapse.  Meanwhile, on the 20th floor, some people are getting nervous as the smoke above grows day by day, but they keep doing there job as they are told, because the fire chief says we don’t need to evacuate.

    We are in that slow-burning catastrophe.  In a life or death crisis, all of the following –> proper channels, being ‘nice’, respect, political correctness, filling out forms — none of that matters.  Courageous leaders do what is right and act swiftly.  Real leaders would evacuate the 20th floor now and deal with the fallout later.

    Please don’t wait for Dr. Chapman to catch up.  Mandatory face coverings for Yolo now!!!

    –Alan “The Jerk” Miller

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