Responding to

"Confusion is a word we have invented
for an order which is not yet understood."
Henry Miller

"When will this end?"

"How long are we going to have to do this?"

"When will things be normal again?"

These are questions I hear and read as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the globe. They are questions that percolate through my thoughts every day. And they're difficult questions to answer because "the end" isn't as clear or straightforward as we would like it to be.

Many of us simply want our old ways of life to return. To be able to go grocery shopping without thinking about which store will have the shortest line. To be able to dine out with friends at our favorite restaurant. To be able to hug someone. To just be able to stop and have a friendly conversation with another person without worrying about standing too close. To go to a movie.

I read recently that , according to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings: the medical , which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet, and the social , when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes. According to Dr. Jeremy Greene, a historian of medicine at Johns Hopkins, “When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they're asking about the social ending.”

The social ending of the COVID-19 pandemic will occur when enough of us have grown tired of living in panic mode and have come to accept that we are going to have to live with the disease for the foreseeable future. This is what seems to be occurring with the general debate about opening the country's economy. Questions about the end of the pandemic are being determined not by medical and public health data but by sociopolitical processes.

But if history is any teacher, pandemics never really go away.
The Bubonic Plague, which first began in China in 1331 and spread to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East between 1347 and 1351, has continued off and on to the present day. There was a repeat outbreak in China in 1855, and the bacteria which causes Bubonic Plague is found these days in prairie dogs throughout the Southwest. In fact, we occasionally read news stories about someone being infected with plague.

The same thing is true of the influenza virus that caused the Spanish Flu of 1918 - 1920. That virus has never gone away. It's simply mutated and become part of the many strains of flu virus that circulate every year.

Sociopolitical pressures are driving mayors and governors to revise stay-at-home orders and allow the limited re-opening of many businesses. Even though the Health Secretary lifted some restrictions in her May 5, 2020, Public Health Order, as the Governor commented “If New Mexicans don’t behave safely, we won’t be able to reopen more than we have. Every single one of us has to do their part.”

So what does any of this have to do with Kitchen Angels?

It means that we cannot become complacent. Our clients deserve that from us. As the pandemic continues and our yearning to return to our old lives increases, many of us will find ourselves slipping in our risk-reducing practices. Nevertheless, Kitchen Angels volunteers and staff will need to continue the practices we've implemented.

The self-assessment attestation that all volunteers are required to complete before each shift is also intended to be a reminder that nothing has really changed , even though some of the state-imposed business restrictions are easing up. Face masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing remain mandatory. Our obligation remains to our clients and each other. We may see more and more people around town letting down their guard, but the pandemic isn't over until the medical data indicate the pandemic is over. Only then will it be safe to let down our guard.

It also means that, as we begin to consider the future of KITCHENALITY, we'll have to make some decisions about the number of customers and volunteers who can be in the store at any time, as well as changing the way volunteers can interact with customers. Our decisions will be driven by what is best for our clients and what makes sense given the most reliable medical and social data available.

It will all feel very strange for a while. And the changing habits and societal norms that we develop may continue to cause confusion for some of us. If we take a step back, however, and consider what will keep our family, friends and loved ones safe, the confusion will lessen and what is expected from each of us will become clear.

To each Kitchen Angels volunteer, thank you.

In gratitude,
Thank you for your vigilance. We want you to stay safe, healthy and informed.
Even statues know we need to wear face masks.
Your actions will help keep our clients, each other and our loved ones
safe and healthy.