Corporate statement says COVID-19-positive Sobeys franchisee “regrets coming to work while experiencing flu-like symptoms”
Ron Kore, the Sobeys franchisee and town councillor who continued working and attending council while exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness, and who later tested positive for COVID-19, has been cleared by Sobeys to continue operating his Fonthill franchise.
In a statement released Tuesday, May 12, Sobeys Director of External Communications, Natasha Compton, said that the company took its investigation seriously, and that Kore and store staff were “incredibly collaborative and supportive throughout the process.”
Included with the corporate release was a statement by Kore, who said that recent weeks had been “difficult and eye opening.”
“I want to apologize for any unintended consequences my actions caused early on in this pandemic and the resulting stress and hurt it may have caused the community.”
Kore received his positive test result on Monday, April 20. Upon learning the news from Sobeys HR staff on site, employees upset by Kore’s continued attendance at work while visibly ill contacted the Voice on Wednesday, April 22. Public reaction to the story was overwhelmingly critical of Kore and Sobeys. By midday Thursday, April 23, the company announced that Kore was suspended from managing the store pending the outcome of an internal investigation, and that the location would be closed overnight for a “deep cleaning.”
Kore did not respond to multiple media requests for comment before or after the original story was published.
On Sunday, April 26, Kore broke his silence, emailing several media outlets a statement asserting that he would “never take a risk with my health, the health of my wife, employees or colleagues at Town Hall,” and criticized the Town of Pelham’s handling of his diagnosis.
Kore added that he had been following the province’s self-assessment guidelines, asserting that they showed he didn’t “qualify” for a test. However, Kore’s symptoms, including a cough and a runny nose, were listed on the province’s webpage on March 18 as among those indicating COVID-19, and the page urged anyone feeling unwell to remain at home.
On March 23, Kore was recorded on video exhibiting symptoms during a Pelham Town Council meeting.
Absent from his April 26 comments was any apparent contrition regarding his conduct. Kore’s latest statement takes a markedly different tone.
“I now realize that some of my decisions, and the optics around them, were imperfect and I am very sorry for this,” he said.
I now realize that some of my decisions, and the optics around them, were imperfect and I am very sorry for this
“Over these past few weeks I have gained some difficult but necessary lessons that I will carry with me. I have learned from this experience and I am committed to this community more than ever. I will work hard to gain back your confidence and trust.”
In her statement, Sobeys spokesperson Natasha Compton said that “Ron Kore would like to share the attached public apology and regrets coming to work while experiencing flu-like symptoms,” asserting that the Fonthill store had “adhered to all proper cleaning and sanitization standards,” and said that the company had not had any reported cases of other employees testing positive for the coronavirus.
“Ron has been a devoted, contributing member of the Pelham community for the last 30 years and has contributed greatly to an incredible amount [of] local causes. We have received an outpouring of messages from the local community, sharing their support for Ron as an outstanding member of the community.”
Calling it an “honour and privilege to serve Pelham,” Kore added that as a local resident and small business owner, he had “witnessed first-hand what an incredible community this is and I am proud to call it home.”
On April 14, the day after Councillor Mike Ciolfi died, Kore requested an indefinite leave of absence from Pelham Town Council. Ciolfi and Kore sat approximately eight feet apart at the March 23 council meeting. Ciolfi, and two senior Town staff present in the room that evening, also later tested positive for COVID-19.
Kore did not reply to a request for comment regarding his intended return date to his municipal duties.
Sobeys’ and Kore’s full statements appear below.
Sobeys corporate statement, May 12, 2020
Sobeys has completed our investigation of the Fonthill Sobeys location. We took this investigation very seriously. Ron Kore, our franchisee partner, and his Fonthill Sobeys store team have been incredibly collaborative and supportive throughout the process.
Ron Kore would like to share the attached public apology and regrets coming to work while experiencing flu-like symptoms. He made reasonable inquiries with health care and public health officials who advised him he was safe to come to work. Ron took precautions and acted in what he believed were the best interests of his team and customers during a very stressful period where his store was experiencing unprecedented pressure. Nevertheless, he acknowledges the poor optics of the situation, there was no ill intent and is very sorry for the misstep.
We have also found that before, and throughout, this investigation, the Fonthill store has adhered to all proper cleaning and sanitization standards. The store has been maintained according to all of our protocols and according to public health recommendations and we have not had any reported cases of employees testing positive. Today, we are welcoming Ron back to the store to continue managing the location as our franchisee partner.
Ron has been a devoted, contributing member of the Pelham community for the last 30 years and has contributed greatly to an incredible amount local causes. We have received an outpouring of messages from the local community, sharing their support for Ron as an outstanding member of the community.
We thank the entire Fonthill Sobeys team for their continued commitment to serve their local community safely as we navigate this pandemic together.
Natasha Compton | Director External Communications
Statement from Ron Kore, May 12, 2020
To the residents of Fonthill,
This community means everything to me.
I would never intentionally risk the health of anyone, including my teammates, neighbors, customers and family. The past few weeks have been difficult and eye opening. I want to apologize for any unintended consequences my actions caused early on in this pandemic and the resulting stress and hurt it may have caused the community.
As a business owner, I found myself in uncharted territory in the early days of this pandemic. The store was busier than it had ever been and my colleagues and I at Sobeys were under a lot of pressure. My instinct was to be there in the trenches with my teams who desperately needed more on-the-ground help to support our community’s needs. At the same time, details and updates related to COVID-19 were emerging and changing rapidly. I thought I was doing the right thing and taking the precautions necessary based on my interpretation of the information I had and the advice I was getting. However, I now realize that some of my decisions, and the optics around them, were imperfect and I am very sorry for this.
As I return to work, I want to assure the community that Sobeys Fonthill has taken and is taking every precaution available to protect the health and wellbeing of our teammates and customers. We have implemented all safety measures required for franchise locations across the country and in compliance with public health protocols. Nothing is more important than your health and safety.
Over these past few weeks I have gained some difficult but necessary lessons that I will carry with me. I have learned from this experience and I am committed to this community more than ever. I will work hard to gain back your confidence and trust. As a local resident and small business owner, I have witnessed first-hand what an incredible community this is and I am proud to call it home. It is an honour and privilege to serve Pelham.
Thank you to everyone in the community who has come together to support one another during these unprecedented times.
I hope you stay safe and healthy.
Sobeys Fonthill Franchisee Owner Operator
Updated 10:15 PM, May 12, 2020, with details of known COVID-19 symptoms as of March 18, 2020.
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