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General Manager's Message - July 2021 by Mike Kezar

Just when we thought we had moved beyond the worst when it comes to COVID, along came the Delta variant. Over the past two weeks, STEC has experienced an increasing number of employees who have contracted the virus or have been exposed to someone who has contracted the virus. Under current policy, all employees who test positive for COVID are required to quarantine away from work until they test negative. Employees who come into close contact with a COVID-positive individual fall into one of two tracks: vaccinated or unvaccinated.

A vaccinated employee who comes into close contact with a COVID-positive individual, but does not exhibit any symptoms, may remain at work as long as symptoms are absent.

A vaccinated employee who comes into close contact with a COVID positive individual, and does exhibit symptoms, will be asked to quarantine at home until the COVIDpositive individual (if a family member living in the same household) and the employee test negative. STEC will cover the time for the employee.

An unvaccinated employee who comes into close contact with a COVID positive individual will be asked to quarantine at home until both the COVID positive individual (if a family member living in the same household) and the employee test negative. The employee will be required to use their PTO to cover their absence.

It is clear from these scenarios, that those employees who are least impacted are those who are vaccinated. Despite that fact, a significant number of STEC employees remain unvaccinated, including those employees who work in areas identified as critical to the continued operation of the Cooperative. And, while STEC does not currently require any employees to be vaccinated, vaccination remains the most effective deterrent to the continued spread of COVID, including the Delta variant. Consider the following information taken from the Texas Department of State Health Services website:

Who is most at risk of contracting the COVID-19 Delta variant?

Unvaccinated people are most at risk of contracting COVID-19, including any of its variants. The Delta variant is more aggressive than other known variants and spreads most rapidly in communities with fewer fully vaccinated people.

The absolute best protection for yourself and those close to you is getting fully vaccinated. The vaccine is proven to safely protect you from COVID-19’s worst effects and lowers your chances of spreading the virus. Greatly increasing the number of fully vaccinated Texans is the only way to prevent a devastating rise in the spread of the pandemic virus.

Studies have shown that the available vaccines are effective against disease and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant. The best protection against any COVID-19 variant is getting fully vaccinated.

Is the Delta variant worse than the other COVID-19 strains? Will it make me sicker than the other strains?

Delta appears to be worse than the other strains. It spreads more easily than other known variants, which means it’s more contagious than other variants. Also, Delta may put infected people at higher risk of hospitalization than other variants.

Recent statistics indicate that approximately 55% of Texans and 60% of all U.S. citizens have had at least one dose of COVID immunization. Given that the vaccine is free of charge, is readily available, and clearly affords the best protection from the virus, why do people refuse to get vaccinated?

In my mind, it comes down to the fact that unvaccinated individuals weigh the risk of contracting the virus below the risk of the vaccine – whether that risk is health-related or otherwise. We live in a country where, at least thus far, we have a choice whether or not to get vaccinated against COVID exposure. But we need to understand that our choices can have serious implications for our coworkers.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” As employees, we need to understand that our personal right to determine whether or not we are vaccinated against COVID is limited by the impact our exercise of that right has on the health of our co-workers.

The Staff and I are currently evaluating additional measures that may have to be implemented to curb the increase in COVID-19 cases within the workforce, and particularly as the new school year begins. We will be issuing guidance in the very near future, however, a fundamental truth remains. We can, to a large degree, control the spread of COVID within STEC by taking the step to become vaccinated.

If you are currently unvaccinated against COVID-19, I ask that you reconsider your decision, understanding that the ultimate decision is yours to make. I also ask that you commit to wearing a mask when you are in the vicinity of other employees, particularly within enclosed spaces like buildings or vehicles. All employees are encouraged to continue practicing good personal and workplace hygiene.

I truly believe we have the power to largely control our destiny regarding COVID. Choose wisely.

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