Responding to

"Strange times are these in which we live when old and young
are taught falsehoods in school.
And the person that dares to tell the truth
is called at once a lunatic and fool."

We all want to feel safe. We all want to be safe. They're not the same.

Safety is among the most powerful motivators of human behavior. It also makes us susceptible to confusion, disinformation, and panic.

Staying safe requires an accurate, mutually agreed-upon understanding of reality on which we can assess threats and base our decisions. Feeling safe is based on an entirely different set of drivers.

Being safe means we're free from the threat of actual physical or mental harm. But feeling safe means we need only be free from the perception of potential harm. Whether or not our perception is accurate is often incidental. “Fear reactions are very primitive,” according to Arash Javanbakht, a psychiatry researcher at Wayne State University. “We don’t react so well or so accurately to conceptual threats.”

Since the pandemic's arrival, decision-makers have sparred over basic safety precautions, leaving many of us bewildered. Unfortunately, when we're each left to write our own version of reality, none of us is safe.

It's not just the things we experience directly that help form our ideas of what to fear. Because human beings are tribal creatures, meaning our identity is closely tied to others in our social group, Dr. Javanbakht suggests the warnings of friends, peers, or authority figures whom we respect also have a significant impact on our perceptions. And since our identity is tied so closely to these affiliations, our definitions of safety tend to be tied to these same affiliations. So even if the actions of those whom we respect contribute to our confusion or discomfort, many of us find it difficult to reject their influence. In fact, many of us simply dig in our heels, ignoring any evidence that contradicts what we've chosen to believe.
The problem is that when it's left to each of us to define reality, things become very messy. When presented with a barrage of conflicting information, many of us simply grow tired and give up. Others of us become hyper-vigilant. And still others engage in wishful thinking - in this case, that the virus isn't any worse than the flu. For some of us it isn't. For others of us, it is. Joey Traywick, a Montana ICU nurse, describes in this video how COVID-19 has left him and his colleagues devastated. It's a tough interview to watch but it's also an honest view of the disease's impact.

Eventually, we're going to need to come to some shared definitions and beliefs about the pandemic. Even then, we'll still need explicit and consistent information about appropriate safety precautions. This includes not just what those appropriate precautions are, but why they’re important. And then we'll need to see examples of people adhering to them repeatedly and over time for them to stick.

Getting to these shared definitions and beliefs also requires that we talk to each other about some hard subjects. For instance, if we're going to be with friends and family during the holidays, we need to be willing to ask them about whom they’ve been with and what they’ve been doing. We may need to find out if they’ve been tested recently. To break the ice, we can volunteer information about ourselves since getting started is often the hardest part. If we're going to be with others, though, we're going to have to work through any awkwardness. Otherwise, the risks are simply too great.

I've said it many times - the pandemic is a shared dilemma. The solutions have to be shared solutions. Our staff, our volunteers, our clients, in fact all of us, share in the impact of our behaviors. If we can keep this in mind, we'll eventually get to that shared understanding of what we all need to do.

Until then, thank you for doing everything you can to keep yourself and others as safe as possible. Your vigilance and your support of Kitchen Angels and our mission are some of the things that make the Kitchen Angels family so extraordinary.

In gratitude,
Thank you for all your vigilance. We want you to stay safe,
healthy, and informed.
New Mexico Continues to Trend Upward

We're paying close attention to the dramatic increase in the number of reported COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in the state in order to make the best decisions about how Kitchen Angels will respond. Our focus remains the safety of our staff, volunteers, and clients.

For the moment, we're not making any changes. That could change during the week. Some possibilities include increasing the frequency of sending clients frozen meals throughout the week in order to reduce the number of days volunteers need to be in the facility. Another is to reduce the hours (or temporarily) closing Kitchenality.

Our services were deemed "essential" by Governor Lujan Grisham in her first public health order and there's no reason to anticipate meal delivery to vulnerable people won't continue to be considered essential.

Last week, the Governor said in her press conference that people can't get numb to the data or danger of the state's health care system becoming overwhelmed. “We are not trending anywhere in the right direction," she said. The Governor also said she will likely announce more restrictions this week in an effort to curb spread, adding that she wants to avoid a complete statewide shutdown. "I think it's really important that New Mexicans understand the situation that we're in."

We will keep you informed of any changes to Kitchen Angels.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent population health research center at the University of Washington, provides real-time data and forecasts on the status of COVID-19 infections. For a look at their forecast for New Mexico, click
Tips to Travel Safely

If you or someone you know is planning on traveling during the holidays, it's important to know the latest travel guidance. Little is certain other than the necessity of wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance, whenever possible. The CDC strongly recommends that masks be worn on any public conveyance, including subways, buses, taxis, ride shares, and airplanes.The airline industry trade group, Airlines for America, is predicting fewer travelers, fewer flights, and more crowded planes.

This article offers some tips to help make traveling less daunting. To ease travelers' worries, some airlines are offering free COVID-19 rapid testing at certain airports. Making sure the people you're traveling to see (or who are traveling to see you) have been tested beforehand can help you maintain a "COVID bubble" and reduce everyone's risk of infection. Quarantine requirements differ from state to state and from country to country, so it's important to know the requirements before traveling. Finally, driving can offer more control over your environment than flying or taking a bus or train.