December 10, 2020
By Dr. Robert Kirken, Dean of the College of Science at the University of Texas at El Paso
It’s been nine months since the COVID-19 pandemic took over our daily lives. From working and schooling at home, to social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing masks – we’ve heard from numerous health officials, the media and public servants what we should be doing.
“What we need now is for every single person in our community to step up, be a leader and model those good behaviors that can help reduce the risk of spreading this deadly disease,” says El Paso County Commissioner David Stout. “All of our community, including parents, schoolteachers, employers, elected officials – all of us – have the power to be leaders and to influence the behavior of those around us.”
As parents, one of the first lessons we learn is that our children do what we do more often than they do what we say. The same tends to be true among friends, colleagues, and members of our extended families.
To support the health and safety of those about whom we care, what are the behaviors we should be modeling?
The science is clear and has been shared with us extensively. Stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out. Wear a mask in public spaces, and possibly also at home if you live with someone who is vulnerable. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer and keep hard surfaces clean. Maintain a distance of six feet or more between individuals and, of particular importance, refrain from holding or attending large gatherings in your homes or other venues.
What does “setting the example” mean, in practice?
It means shopping for groceries and other items as infrequently as possible, and maintaining social distance even when others aren’t. It means always being prepared with your mask, even if you’re just popping out to grab the mail or taking a walk around the block. Unfortunately, at this cherished time of the year, it also means politely declining invitations to visit friends and loved ones during the holidays.
Most of all, it means following the recommendations of the skilled and knowledgeable health officials who serve with a commitment to our well-being, and adhering to the requirements set forth by our city, county and state leaders. This is the way to protect our community and showing grace and kindness as we perform these actions spreads the message of how deeply we care for one another.
We are all exhausted and frustrated by the pandemic and the personal, social, and financial challenges it has caused. We all need an outlet, and a place to vent and share our concerns and anxieties. Share your feelings with those you hold close but try not to foster the fear and negativity that seems to be so prevalent in recent months. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need each other. Your influence can be far-reaching, so choose your words and behaviors carefully.
Numerous studies have shown that modeling good behavior – in the classroom, at work and at home – has a positive impact on the way others around us behave. In order for our model to be most effective, however, we must be consistent.
“Remember that respect, compassion and empathy can be contagious, too,” says Commissioner Stout. “By setting a good example to those around us, we show we care.”
Dr. Robert Kirken is a member of the El Paso United COVID-19 Transition Task Force which is made up of medical experts, elected officials and non-profit organizations from across the Paso del Norte Region.
And if we consistently show that we care, those around us will likely reciprocate and begin to set examples of their own.
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