The sun shone brightly, casting its warmth on the cool May morning. Early shoppers arrived in downtown Kansas City to bring some normalcy back into their lives. With the Stay At Home orders being slowly rescinded, some of the public are venturing out to places that seem strangely familiar. We visited City Market to see how the new paradigm is being applied to one of our favorite summer activities. Loosening the lockdown at the farmer’s market is a good test for how the general public will handle the new protocols for social interaction.

The signs of new social distancing policies may be with us for quite some time.

Social Distancing While Loosening the Lockdown

Heading out of the house these days requires a new set of tools. In the past, my bag would have been filled with our camera and selfie stick. These days it also contains a pair of masks and at least one container of hand sanitizer. It’s strange how quickly the public can accept a change like this, but then again we have found that it is being adopted on different levels. Strolling through the marketplace, we found that management had provided signage to help guide the public through their shopping regimen, with a path of least interaction.

An apparent lack of shoppers is expected when a city first begins loosening the lockdown.

Wary Public

Vendors have noticed that the crowds are far below normal activity, but are pleased to see a return to activity. Along the concourse of permanent businesses, we find social distancing to be difficult at times. While most will pause at a safe distance and wait their turn, others still fall back into their old routine of plunging forward with business as usual. Loosening the lockdown is showing a clear lack of consistency from the general public. This is apparent from the mix of masked and unmasked shoppers. Each category seems to be cautious of the other, and no one seems to be certain which level of protection is appropriate.

Shoppers wait in queue while others take their turn.

Mixed Results

In the stalls manned by local farmers, there is evidence of the same inconsistent message. Loosening the lockdown has begun by only allowing food and plant vendors to be present at the City Market. This means that many stalls are empty, which drives the shoppers to congregate at the ones that are occupied. It was interesting to watch how people handled being thrown into these types of situations. Some flocked in, disregarding the social protocol that will be needed to safeguard the general public. Others maintained their social distance and calmly waited their turn at each stall. We see no reason to crowd even with the safety of mask to aid in protecting us.

A sunny day draws shoppers to City Market, as they enjoy the loosening of the lockdown.

Seeking Sunshine

A recent article, which I read, suggests a possible link between the levels of Vitamin D and the number of resistance humans have to the coronavirus. While the study is incomplete, it does offer hope that the return of warmer weather may provide for some relief from the current pandemic. In the meantime, we were finding plenty of sunshine in the market. The opportunity to shop for plants was enough to draw a decent group of homegrown green thumbs. While we saw plenty to choose from, we held off for now. The threat of a potential frost was enough to keep us from pulling the trigger on purchasing plants to refill our yard.

Crystal looks over the menu before deciding on her special treat from Bloom Bakery.

Finding Our Own Blooms

While we weren’t picking up flowers on this visit, we still found a way to take a bloom home with us. A visit to Bloom Baking Co. provided a chance to pick up some fresh baked goods. With the majority of permanent businesses being food-oriented, it gave us more shopping opportunities. To comply with the new regulations, many businesses have set up temporary counters outside of the brick & mortar spaces. Customers can call ahead to have items prepackaged for pickup. This makes loosening the lockdown more convenient, especially for those living nearby.

Sweet treats from Bloom Bakery will make our evening's dinner special.

Let Them Eat Cake

As we waited for our order to be filled, I noticed this sign nearby. One of the keys to surviving the current situation is to maintain our sense of humor. The stress of the current environment is taking its toll on all of us. We need to remember that we are all in this together, and working toward a reasonable solution is important. Since the start of the lockdown, many Kansas Citians have looked for ways to stay active. Parks and trails are seeing a boom in popularity. As the weather warms, outdoor projects are being undertaken. The loosening of the lockdown will certainly spark a return of shoppers, so developing good standards will be imperative for public safety.

The authors drop their masks to pose for a quick selfie at City Market in Kansas City.

Loosening The Lockdown

The actions we take in the coming weeks will guide our lessons for the upcoming months. We hope that we will have livable standards in place by the end of the summer. These should be designed to allow the public to once again enjoy the activities that make life special. Of course, they will also need to protect the community from major outbreaks, as we work toward developing a herd immunity. If done successfully, we will be able to once again enjoy the festivals and special events that draw large crowds. In the meantime, we are cautiously enjoying the small freedoms that we are finding, as they begin loosening the lockdown.

the authors signatures.

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