Responding to

"Prevention is better than cure."
Desiderius Erasmus
Today's the day!

Not that we get to return to a "pre-COVID" normal, but June 1, 2020, marks the next step in moving toward a new normal . . . at least for New Mexico.

Today many businesses will be allowed to re-open. Restaurants will be allowed to re-open, albeit with limited seating. Many people will be returning to their offices for the first time in more than two months.

And with these changes, the next phase of hard work begins . . . the work of remembering that nothing has really changed. As the Governor said in her message in All Together New Mexico: COVID-Safe Practices for Individuals & Employers , "It will be up to all New Mexicans working together to make the coming months successful by learning how to live in a COVID-positive world. Until there is a vaccine . . . life and work will be very different."

In my May 11 message, I talked about the two types of endings to pandemics: the  medical , which occurs when the incidence and death rates plummet; and the  social , when the epidemic of fear about the disease wanes. When people ask, ‘When will this end?,’ they're asking about the social ending. And that's what today marks.

I don't mean to minimize the work that many of us have done, and will continue to do, to keep the coronavirus at bay. Collectively, we have helped slow the spread of a disease for which none of us was prepared. As a community, we accepted our social obligation to protect ourselves, our families, our neighbors and the most vulnerable in our communities.

Kitchen Angels staff and volunteers have adapted, inspired, supported, and cared for each other and our clients in inspiring ways. As a group dedicated to making sure our homebound neighbors have enough to eat, we've also helped make sure they're safe. To my knowledge, not one of our clients or active volunteers has contracted COVID and that's something to be proud of.
So why do I think this next phase is going to be difficult?

In order to continue to contain the spread of the virus, we’ll need to sustain all of the behaviors we've been so diligent about for many more months to come. With a constant stream of news and reminders about the importance of hand washing and social distancing, it's been relatively easy to remember to wear a face mask, stay six feet apart and avoid gathering in groups. As the summer progresses, however, things may become more challenging.

As a recent article about quarantine fatigue points out, people are getting tired. "The problem is that people are unable to “see” the benefits of their actions—and thus often don’t recognize just how important they are. As a result, adherence to these protective behaviors could wane over time without policies designed to sustain them."

Another challenge is that prevention is a tough sell because it promotes avoiding something. "The benefits of prevention seem intangible and we typically don’t get useful feedback about the effects of our actions. If all of our actions work, the outcome is that we don’t get sick. But not being sick was the state we were in before we took those actions." Essentially, nothing seems to have changed.

Reminding ourselves of all of the bad things we've avoided isn't going to have any real long-term impact on keeping up our vigilance. Humans are simply not wired that way. Our best approach is to establish policies and practices that eliminate the need for individual decision-making altogether. And that's what we will continue to do at Kitchen Angels.

We will continue to require wearing face masks while in the facility, regular hand washing, and keeping at least six feet apart from each other. We'll continue to ask volunteers to complete a volunteer assessment before each shift and to reflect on any behaviors that may put themselves or others at risk.

As we begin to examine how we can best re-open KITCHENALITY, our top priority will remain keeping staff and volunteers as safe as possible. Thus far, we've done an excellent job. With the easing of public health restrictions generally, we will now need to consider the wellbeing of customers who come into our store and ensure our that practices don't put anyone at unnecessary risk.

Our social contract asks us to do five things, and to do them without fail . . .
  • Be responsible
  • Be patient
  • Be prepared
  • Be educated, and
  • Stay home.

This isn't forever, but it is for the time being. To each Kitchen Angels volunteer, thank you.

In gratitude,
Thank you for your vigilance. We want you to stay safe, healthy and informed.