Seeing news this morning that an in-person industry event had been canceled felt eerily similar to spring 2020. 

The Speciality Food Association canceled its in-person 2021 Fancy Food Show today. The show, which was slated to be held Sept. 27-29 in New York City, will move forward as the digital Fancy Food 24/7.

Just as in March 2020, recent news coverage of COVID-19 had left me bracing for industry event cancellations. But actually getting news of one still rattled me. In a way, it solidified my fears — COVID is as bad as I was worried it would be.

It has been tempting to try to will ourselves past all of this. To hope that acting like COVID is over will result in COVID actually being over. Unfortunately, that’s not how viruses work. 

Despite a significant lull in COVID-19 cases earlier this summer, over the last few weeks it has become increasingly clear that the pandemic is nowhere near over in the United States.

The country surpassed 200,000 new COVID cases in a single day this week. Specifically, 233,095 new cases were reported on Monday, Aug. 9, according to The New York Times. And lest anyone think that the vaccines will blunt the trauma of all that illness, the country also surpassed 1,000 deaths in a single day this week. Specifically, 1,049 new deaths on Tuesday, Aug. 10, per The New York Times.  

Cases are rising so fast that it’s difficult to process how dire things have become. Worse though, it’s also impossible to know what’s coming next. Will Delta shoot upwards into a peak and then quickly drop, or should we brace for a devastating fall and winter? How much will vaccines protect us? What will the school year bring? When will this all be behind us? Will this ever all be behind us?

And of course, here, in this space on, we wonder: How will all of this impact the confectionery industry? 

What will be the fate of gum and mint sales? Will people trick-or-treat this year now that Delta might be impacting children more than previous variants? Will consumers shop in-store or online for groceries? And when they do either, will they reach for comforting foods like chocolate again, or will all the news about “health” inspire them to reach for healthier alternatives?

There are also logistical issues, as the impacts on everything from supply chains and staffing levels to in-person industry events remain in flux. 

Anyone who tells you they know for certain what’s coming next is lying. Like everything related to the pandemic, there are no certain answers. The only thing we do know is that it will indeed impact the confectionery industry. 

As cases shoot upwards, and winter looks ominous, I do have one request: Cancel. Cancel your in-person meetings, your industry events, and your trips out of state. Just, cancel.

I understand that it’s a hard choice, but it's a choice that could literally save a life. And, on a professional scale, it’s the right thing to do. Pushing forward and insisting on seeing people in-person right now puts all the pressure on the people you’re planning to see to make the hard choices. And nobody should want that for their business contacts. 

If you are in a position to cancel a upcoming event this year, please seriously consider doing so now. If you shift focus to virtual options now, there’s still time to create an engaging and fulfilling event for your participants. 

Beyond that, mask up, get vaccinated, and order take-out. Let your staff work from home if you’re in a position to do so. And try to give everyone a break right now. We’re all dealing with a collective traumatic experience, and it’s hitting all of us in different ways. All we can really do is offer a little kindness in response.