How sister’s warning from Italy prompted DeCicco and Sons to prepare for Covid-19 early and fast


Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States, Luisa DeCicco talked to her sister in Italy on the phone. Her sister, a doctor, advised DeCicco to start preparing herself and all the DeCicco and Sons stores for the impact of the virus. So Luisa and her husband, company President John DeCicco, Jr., started to ready their employees and eight stores for the looming pandemic.

“I knew how bad the situation was and I knew (Covid-19) would come over here,” said Luisa DeCicco, who is the grocery chain’s director of human resources. “There was no way it could stop.”

This prep time allowed DeCicco’s to get ahead of the curve. It was able to install Plexiglas at the checkouts and mass buy masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. Employees were taught how to properly wash their hands, tents were purchased to shield customers from the elements while waiting in lines and capacities were reduced to 35%.

The stores were ready. The week following March 15 was the busiest in the company’s history.

“We were hoping that everything we were putting in place would become a government mandate,” said DeCicco.

Recently the stores have added stand-up thermometers to check the temperatures of employees. Human resources keeps track of all temperatures and alerts employees if their temperatures are too high. Ultraviolet light purified air technology is also new to the stores. This maximizes the killing of germs and bacteria.

DeCicco said she believes in treating employees like family. It’s the company’s “responsibility to assist them medically, financially and emotionally,” she said. The chain reduced store operating hours, offered Sundays off for several weeks and Covid-19 premium pay. Masks have been mandatory for employees since March.

The employee contact tracing and prevention program tracks all employees that have been exposed to Covid-19 or have symptoms. They then must take two weeks off and can only come back to work when a test shows negative. Any employee that is out gets paid.

“Through this tracing effort, we discovered in several instances that the two-week isolation time was not as effective as originally thought,” said DeCicco. “In fact, it was learned that for some people the virus lasted well over three weeks.”

Mobile testing sites have been set up in store parking lots for employees to get Covid-19 and antibody testing. In April, DeCicco’s started serving complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner for employees.

“For us, we know the employees are part of our family and we love them,” said DeCicco. “They are there for us, but they only want to be there for us if we’re there for them.”