I feel like we're on the verge of being wide open again and, frankly, I'm pretty excited about that! The trials and tribulations we have all experienced over the previous 15 months have been stressful and life altering. We have been quarantined and cooped up in our homes for far too long! We have watched friends and family get infected by COVID and we have seen many of our neighbors and loved ones die from this horrible virus.

In the past 15 months we have watched our parents and elderly neighbors grow ever fearful of coming into contact with an infected person. It has been a challenge to serve them because they are so afraid. On the other end of the spectrum, we have our younger, school-aged children, who have had to adopt a whole new way of learning. They have had to figure out how to interact in a virtual classroom setting and their parents learned how to help their children be effective students in more than just the traditional way of "helping with homework!"

In many cases our elderly and student populations have had to do without the most important, and vital, factor in their lives, which is social interaction. Human beings are social creatures, and we thrive on social and physical contact, both tactilely and proximally, with our peers in order to function normally. Scientists have studied, for centuries, the adverse effect of the absence of social interaction on the human psyche. In 2020 the evidence of these effects became real, and not just something we read about in textbooks.

Down on Mainstreet, or on the town plaza, local businesses have learned a new catch phrase when it came to running a business in 2020. PIVOT! Businesses learned how to pivot in their businesses, or they learned how to stay afloat by implementing alternate ways of doing business. Business learned how to sell online to quarantined customers. We learned how to create products that were able to be delivered to our customers and we learned how to make our products "take out" friendly. In other words, we streamlined our business in order to survive and still meet the needs of our customers who couldn't, or wouldn't, come see us.

As we emerge from the oversight of the Public Health Order, issued by the NM Department of Health, and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, we are faced with simultaneous feelings of excitement, anticipation, fear and reticence for what's to come. We want to get out there amongst our friends and neighbors but we're fearful of their health status. We want to run out and hug that colleague, whom we have only seen via Zoom since March 2020 but we are unsure if they want to be hugged! Do we shake hands, or bump fists or do we stand 6 feet apart and wave? It's all still a bit disconcerting.

I know, firsthand, how hard the residents of Grant County, New Mexico USA have worked to ensure that our environment is safe and infection free. I know how much time and effort has gone in to keeping our neighbors up-to-date with the latest, most relevant information about the virus and how to remain safe. I know how patient YOU have been all along the way during this arduous process of infection mitigation and healing. Together we have all been diligently taking the necessary steps to reopen our community in a post COVID environment. June 30, 2021 is the date of our liberation and it's a date we have been dreaming of for so long now.

As we reemerge into a life of bustling activity and social gatherings, please remember that the transformative aspect of the past 15 months will affect us forever. Excitement, anticipation, fear, and reticence are still part of our vernacular but moving forward we have the chance to reinforce the concepts of brotherhood, respect and cooperation in our communities. We have changed the ways we do business; we have changed the way we approach our friends and neighbors. We have changed our viewpoint for global pandemics, and we have changed our thoughts of social interaction and mindset. We have changed in many, many, ways over the past year and a half. However, the one thing that hasn't changed is hope!

We are all hopeful for a brighter tomorrow and the chance to take all of the lessons we've learned and make them the impetus for our successful reemergence.

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