The last couple of days were characterized by a collective count: of the first and the last, of what was but is not now, of what is not but could have been. That was the day 12 months ago that I last saw one of my friends outside the confines of a screen. It was the second week of March when I first noticed someone wearing a mask in public. Exactly a year ago today, I was nervous because I was at work. I wasn’t sure if it was even a good idea to be there. The last meal in a restaurant. The first realization that „normal” did not come back so quickly.

On March 9, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Mandatory closings soon followed: on March 15, the mayors of Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco announced imminent closings, including closing the dining rooms of restaurants to slow the spread. The next day, New York City would shut down food in the house, and much of the country would follow suit. The early days of the plague year were marked by confusion (do I have to wipe my groceries?), Worry (did my brother’s roommate make him sick?), Naivety (this will be over in two weeks, right?) And yes, panic – over the health, about the status of livelihood, about the practical matters of daily life that suddenly seemed impossible to achieve.

The later days brought frustration and anger at the thought that all of this should have been avoided. The millions of workers that make up the food and restaurant industries have paid more of the cost of the pandemic – roughly than 520,000 lives lost and millions of livelihoods destroyed – than many. Initially referred to as „essential” frontline workers, food service workers in many states are still not eligible for the vaccine or the guaranteed hazard payment. Even if a year after the crisis began, every day is more hopeful than the last, President Joe Biden has announced that a vaccine will be available to every American as soon as May 1st – it’s not over. „Nor is it clear that” over „should be the same as moving on: many of the inequalities that made the pandemic and the world that made it too visible to ignore any longer – whose lives we valued less than their contributions to the economy; who still struggled for their right to breathe, to exist, to prosper; literally who lived and who died – is finally getting some of the attention they get from those in power to earn.

Where do we go from here is an open question. But wherever we decide, we should find out about the amazing realities that came to light – as well as the little triumphs that emerged in the past year despite all the adversities.

De Dana

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