A coalition of independent retail hardware stores in Maryland today asked Governor Larry Hogan and Acting Health Department Secretary Dennis R. Schrader to reinstate hardware store employees as “essential” employees who qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations in upcoming Phase 1 C of the state’s rollout plan. Under the Governor’s current plan, Phase 1 C will provide vaccination access to residents 65 to 74, certain public safety and health workers, and essential workers in grocery stores, food production, labs, manufacturing, public transit and the postal service.
Despite being deemed essential last March when the pandemic began, hardware store employees were (perhaps unintentionally) designated for Phase 2 access under the Governor’s rollout plans, meaning that hardware store employees would not have access to the vaccine until April or May at the earliest.
“We were considered essential workers early on in this pandemic, so I don’t believe there is any question that our employees are ‘essential,”‘ said coalition member Margaret Clark of Clarks Ace Hardware in Ellicott City. “Our stores provide products and guidance for our communities for safety and health, yet we don’t have the same safety protection as many of the other essential workers that were included in Phase 1 C.”
A second coalition member, Gordon Clement of Clement True Value Hardware in Severna Park, pointed out that independent hardware stores have more employees per customer than big box stores and grocery stores. “We require closer contact with the public everyday when helping to solve essential problems. Our employees, at many times, are in an even greater risk for contracting or spreading the virus than some of the other working categories included in Phase 1 C.”
Bob Patel of Chesapeake Hardware in Churchton explained that hardware retailers support the state’s plan to vaccinate first responders, educators, and older Marylanders first. “It’s just common sense and smart policy to vaccinate our employees at the same time as grocery store employees – whenever the vaccination supplies allow,” said Patel.
Members of the coalition include: