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No sector merits more praise than drug chains

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The interminable, never-ending, always dangerous summer of 2020 is over.

There are those among us who believed — who still believe — this most infamous season among the most perilous years we’ve witnessed would never end. But it has.

As we pick up the pieces, attempt to place and spread the blame, engage in endless recriminations, look closely for scapegoats, and try to identify the guilty and the careless, it is none too soon to pay a modicum of respect to the chain drug community.

It is easy to malign our industry for things left undone or done too hastily, for measures taken too lightly and strides taken too randomly. But in the American business community, in the environment in which the nation’s chain drug stores function, it would be difficult to find — if we should be foolish enough to choose to try — a segment of that community that has risen to the occasion more appropriately, more dramatically and more effectively than chain drug retailers large and small.

At a time of unparalleled crisis, a period of desperation without equal in the long, sometimes lamentable history of our country, it would be hard to find another business or social segment of society whose praise is more deserved.

If other segments of retailing have behaved with equal courage and with equal disregard for the perils and consequences — grocery retailers come readily to mind — it has been our drug stores that have always been there, unfailingly offering the treatments, the medicines, the advice, the services and the moral support the citizens of the United States desperately needed and all too often despaired of receiving.

Stories abound of drug store retailers who remained open when common sense and basic welfare decreed that they should close. Similar tales are told of services drug stores provided, often unasked, that saved lives, revised thinking, provided hope when hope had all but vanished.

Perhaps too much time and effort has been expended on tasks drug store retailers came to too late or not at all. Perhaps it became, throughout this pandemic, simpler to belabor those services left undone or done too late. Indeed, during the worst days of the summer, it became fashionable to criticize rather than praise, to condemn rather than take the time or expend the effort to salute those hundreds of thousands of staffers who showed up, who opened their doors, who stayed after hours or never bothered to go home at all.

These are household names we’re all too familiar with: Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Bartell’s, Lewis Drug, Kinney Drug … the list goes on and on, covering the country, encompassing all 50 states, doing the work they have been trained to do — and doing it more effectively than it had ever been done before.

It would be a pleasant fantasy to tell ourselves and each other that the worst is over, that those who have perished have done so so the rest of us might, unincumbered, live out the remainder of our lives. But we are smart enough to know that such dreams are pipe dreams. There is more dying yet to be done, more suffering yet to experience, more days of despair to come. We, as a nation, have hardly contained this dreaded killer.

But would it be wrong or premature to take just a minute or two, as summer ends and autumn begins, to silently thank the practitioners of an industry, an art and a science in which we can all take pride? Whatever our role or our duties or our particular challenges, we are all a part of this industry. And if we’ve ever had reason, had a moment, had a duty to take pride in our achievements, this is our moment.

We can ask no less, or expect no more, than to thank ourselves for being a part of an industry that has kept America going when keeping it going was the most we could have hoped for.


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