Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, The Valley Reporter has been checking in regularly with Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.
With 75% of eligible Vermonters vaccinated and the state lifting the statewide mask mandate – leaving it up to businesses and organizations to set their own policy – The Valley Reporter reached out to Friedman for a Q and A.
VR: What are you hearing from members about the state entering Phase 3 of the Vermont Forward Plan with no mask and distancing requirements for fully vaccinated people.
Friedman: Reactions have been a little bit across the board. Personally, I’m conscious of the signs that store owners are putting on their front doors and I’m respecting that. I think it’s a little confusing for everyone at this point. I also think people are waiting for the date when Vermont vaccine rates hit 80% of eligible people and then all regulations are lifted.
VR: What about at your office?
Friedman: At the chamber office, we don’t have a sign up asking people to wear masks. We’re both fully vaccinated. People who aren’t fully vaccinated are supposed to wear masks. I think it’s tough and people don’t know what to do and people are having a hard time making a leap back to a prepandemic way of life. I also think some people are wearing masks out of politeness to people who aren’t vaccinated.
VR: Let’s talk about the workforce issue that the state is facing. Is that happening here as well?
Friedman: Yes, it is super difficult. Business owners are struggling. I know that Ana Dan wants to open Sage and has a chef and bartender but no wait staff at the moment. I had an interesting conversation with Joey Nagy at the Mad Taco. I love this guy and his attitude. He said that the government gave him money to keep people employed and the business open seven days a week and said that he pays his people and doesn’t close when it gets slow. He calls it an investment and says he’d rather pay them when it is slow so that he has a good, trained and cohesive staff when it gets busy.
And that’s what Mad River Glen has done in the past as well, keep the restaurant open in the summer more to keep the team together than to make money.