Responding to

“If you want something different
you are going to have to do something different."

Jack Canfield
It was just about six months ago that the first positive tests for COVID-19 in New Mexico were announced. It was, more precisely, March 11, 2020. Spring and summer were nothing like any of us expected, as a result.

Aside from the day-to-day changes most of us have made to avoid becoming infected or infecting others with the novel coronavirus, what's really changed in our thinking, our habits, and our long-term behaviors?

Obviously, we won't know until the pandemic has ended but, with six months under our collective belts, maybe we can take a step back and reflect on all that we've experienced thus far.

Joe Pinsker, who writes for The Atlantic, talked with people about how the pandemic has affected their attitudes and behaviors and how they see their changed behaviors continuing into the future. "Those I interviewed said they imagine they’ll continue to be conscientious about how viruses spread and what they can do to protect themselves and others." Katy Milkman, a behavioral scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, isn't convinced the changes will stick around, though. "If the threat of the virus is neutralized, the reward for scrubbing your hands won’t endure, and I think the average person will go back to a simpler routine."

What type of events cause real, long-term and lasting change? Those that last a long time. According to Pinsker, the event itself has to be of a long-enough duration that behavioral changes become ingrained and routine.

Duration is perhaps the key to understanding why the 1918–19 influenza pandemic didn’t seem to shape people’s habits much in the long term. "During the pandemic’s second and third waves, when daily life was affected most, Americans typically endured no more than a few months of disruption," Pinsker writes. And unlike today, the stress was not continuous. In many parts of the country there were extended periods of relative normalcy.

A better example of how a traumatic, drawn-out collective experience affected people's lives may be the Great Depression. For instance, the roughly decade-long crisis led many people, later in life, to fear discarding anything that might turn out to be useful. That was certainly true of my parents and grandparents. Glen Elder, Jr, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill thinks the Depression affected so many people permanently simply because it lasted so long. "For an extended period, it called upon people to do a lot of things that they would not otherwise have been called upon to do.”

But the long-term effects of living through a global crisis vary from person to person, Elder notes. “Everyone has their own experiences.”
Most of us within the Kitchen Angels community have been extremely fortunate and the pandemic hasn't been as traumatic as the Great Depression. Nevertheless, it has been challenging. And, as Simon Sinek writes, some of us are dealing with the pandemic's challenges by actually taking on additional challenges, albeit those of our own choosing. Sinek, an author and motivational speaker, suggests, "To deal effectively with change, it helps to be engaged in changing yourself. One of the things that makes us resilient is that when we see a challenge, and when we face a struggle, we engage with it, rather than shut down. What I have learned from my career is that something I learned over here helps me over there. Even if I don’t know that is happening, any kind of learning benefits all aspects of life.”

One of the things Sinek recommends keeping in mind as we pursue our own challenging opportunities is to embrace our passions to increase our likelihood of sticking with the challenge. When we’re in the process of learning, our viewpoint changes, and we frequently spot connections that we never noticed before. This is especially important during difficult times because learning something new typically requires focus and determination. That focus can also help us turn off much of the noise with which we're regularly being bombarded. It's like giving ourselves an opportunity to catch our breath.

Returning to Katy Milkman's observations about how long our behavior changes may last, she suggests that many won't endure if people don't see any continued benefit. For instance, hand washing and mask wearing may fade from general practice unless or until a need arises. If, on the other hand, people find that what they learned to do during the pandemic is actually better overall than what they used to do, then it’ll probably last.

Some of the changes around Kitchen Angels may well last beyond the end of the pandemic simply because they're more efficient and translate into a better use of our resources. Others will probably be set aside.

In the meantime, we all know the drill. Wear masks, wash hands, stay physically distant, follow the science, and consider the impact our actions will have on others.

To each of you and the entire Kitchen Angels family, thank you for all you do, every day, to keep yourself and others safe and healthy.

In gratitude,
Thank you for your vigilance. We want you to stay safe, healthy and informed.
Just When You Thought You
Knew The Rules . . .

The governor has eased up on quarantine regulations for people who have traveled to some states, and Kitchen Angels is following suit. Although we're still making case-by-case determinations for how long volunteers will need to quarantine after traveling, here are the new state guidelines:

  • If you have traveled to a “high risk” state, one where there is a 5% or greater positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average, you will need to quarantine for 14 days before returning to a volunteer shift.

  • If you have traveled to a “lower-risk” state, where there is a lower than 5% positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average, you will likely be able to volunteer but you'll need to check in with Lauren.

  • If you can show documentation of a valid negative COVID-19 test taken within the 72 hours before or after your return to New Mexico, you are exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement, regardless of the state from which you have traveled. This exemption does not apply, however, if you traveled outside of the United States. 

These charts from Johns Hopkins University offer a relatively easy reference on which states are determined to be high and low risk. Bear in mind that "high" and "low" can vary from week to week.

It will still be necessary to speak directly with Lauren before we can decide on when you'll be able to return to your volunteer shift. It’s not just the traveling that carries risk, but what you do while you're away (for example, attending a wedding, camping, or going to a family reunion), that affects your potential for exposure.

Thank you for your diligence. The Kitchen Angels community has done an outstanding job of keeping everyone safe so far.
Before you return to volunteering . . .
ask yourself . . .

  1. Am I able to work a full shift wearing a face mask?
  2. Can I hear well enough from six feet away if the other person is speaking through a face mask?
  3. Am I willing to work a different shift than the one I previously worked?
  4. Can I commit to showing up to my shift on-time and without canceling at the last minute?
  5. Can I adapt to a new environment and new routine?
  6. Can I reliably communicate with the Volunteer Coordinator?
  7. Do I feel safe being back in the public sphere?
  8. Can I maintain appropriate risk-mitigating practices when I'm not at Kitchen Angels?

If you answer "NO" to any of these questions, you're not ready to return. If you're not sure, check with Lauren.