Relying on Delivery Apps in Quarantine and Beyond

When people return to work, delivery services may become critical as social distancing standards remain in place. 

By Siet Wright

During the coronavirus pandemic, people have learned to rely on delivery apps to meet their needs while at home. Ensuring personal safety has become a top priority and apps have played an important role in that peace of mind. Online versions exist for nearly everything now. One can get an education online, talk to a therapist, attend a virtual fitness class, attend meetings, shop and more. In the information age, people with means can stay safely home, and allow companies to deliver goods and services in a safe manner. When-stay at-home mandates are lifted, will people still need to rely on these services to feel safe?

State governments are deciding when to slowly start resuming business as usual, but that may cause a second spike in COVID-19 infections. Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has warned the media that rushing back to normal life could be disastrous for public health. Flattening the curve is an on-going process that will need longer than a month to work. For some people, the economy cannot handle a continuation of closed businesses. For other people, it is far too soon to consider re-opening businesses right when social distancing practices were beginning to work.

Will there be a return to normal?

A recent Harvard study shows that with current efforts, social distancing may need to continue through 2022. This means people will need to re-think what business as usual means. In the rush to return to normal, people may be forgetting there might not be anything normal soon.

According to The Harvard Crimson, researchers modeled potential scenarios for the next few months based on current social distancing practices. The researchers wanted to investigate whether rates of infection would be effectively slowed by just one cycle of social distancing. Based on their models, the researchers found this assumption is likely not the case. The majority of the public is certain to feel disappointed by these findings and turn to technology to gain some semblance of maintaining the status quo.  

Delivery apps meet an important need in isolation

The Washington Post published an article in April stating a delivery driver reported receiving 25-30% more orders in the past month. This suggests that people feel safer having food delivered directly to them, rather than risking exposure in stores and restaurants.

“I don’t think food delivery services are particularly risky,” said Amesh Adalja, M.D., a physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security to The Washington Post. “It’s a good way to do social distancing, which is especially important for the elderly.”

Delivery apps are meeting the needs of many of America’s workforce who are under stay-at-home orders. Now, food delivery services are moving to contactless drop-off to minimize the chance of spreading the virus. This is in recognition of the worry people feel about encountering other people in a pandemic.

This kind of conscious marketing to validate people’s concerns could potentially create life-long loyal customers after the pandemic is over. Companies that rise to the occasion and help to alleviate the stress of life in a pandemic are poised to succeed in a struggling economy.

Unemployment rates skyrocket

According to a PBS News Hour poll, 18% of people report that someone in their household has recently lost employment because of the pandemic. This means that millions of people will be looking for ways to earn money.

The global economy has come to a near stand-still in less than 60 days. With millions of people out of work in the U.S., there will be more people seeking employment when life gets back to normal. Side gigs like delivering food could be the answer to that problem.

People will be looking for gigs to help make ends meet, like delivery services. With daily activities shut down indefinitely, people who can stay home are using more delivery services than ever before.

Reliance on delivery services has become invaluable to the public in the coronavirus crisis. When a return to “normal” occurs, people may still use apps to distance themselves. Some people feel safer having food delivered rather than going out and possibly risking exposure in public.

Millions of people have recently become job-less, but delivery apps may be able to provide people with part-time jobs and increase the efficiency of enforcing stay-at-home orders. There won’t be a quick return to normal, but a slow trickle to something more normal.

Some people will continue to work from home, and some may even have a lingering fear of public places and being around large groups of people. In that case, it’s imperative that a safety net of delivery apps is in place to help people retain some sense of normal.

The Professor’s Room – Remote Edition

Step inside the plant-filled home office/classroom of Megan S. Lazorski, Ph.D., assistant professor, Chemistry.

By Siet Wright

April 23, 2020

Megan Lazorski in her home office/classroom.When Megan Lazorski, Ph.D., assistant professor, Chemistry, joined Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2017, she didn’t imagine teaching from her living room. Since the COVID-19 campus closure, Lazorski conducts classes virtually – and her dogs and cat make frequent appearances.

Since moving her workspace to her apartment, Lazorski has had to make some adjustments, such as covering windows to reduce the glare on her whiteboard and navigating FedEx deliveries in the middle of lectures. At first, she found the pivot to at-home teaching challenging, but then she began to rewatch recordings of her classes to help her evaluate and improve.

“I just love chemistry,” she said. “I love talking about it, thinking about it and doing research. It’s just a fascinating look into the mysteries of our existence.”

Lazorski attributes this professional passion to the inspiring professors she had in undergraduate and graduate school who drew her toward teaching – and to Robin Williams’ character in the film “Dead Poets Society.”

Step into her apartment to see how she continues to engage her students.

  1. The black-and-white painting of Marie Curie was gifted to me by my aunt when I earned my Ph.D. When I was younger, I revered Marie Curie and did a report on her because she was one of the only well-known women chemists at the time.
  2. My home virtual classroom is anchored by a pink wooden stand I found in the dumpster. I was going to turn it into a bookshelf, but desperate times called for making it into a computer stand, which is stabilized with zip ties. Two zip ties are affixed to the front of the stand as well to hold my phone as a secondary recording device. The whole contraption is stabilized with two hand weights and a large rock.
  3. I lived in a tent while working as a whitewater rafting guide in Maine for two summers during undergrad. I returned to Maine in my gap year before graduate school and taught high school science courses. These photos are of Maine’s iconic places.
  4. I am from a family of gardeners, and I don’t feel at home unless I have plants in my house. I especially love orchids. There are so many varieties, and they are all so unique and beautiful. Most of the plants on my plant stand are orchids. The one with  inflorescence is a miltonia, and there are three phalaenopsis and a vanda. I also have a jade plant, air plants, a pothos and a Swedish ivy that was gifted to me.
  5. The ceramic sugar skull is from Baja California. I used to travel there often when I lived in California. There was an amazing wine region called the Ruta Del Vino that I enjoyed exploring. I loved learning about the history, artwork and culture of the region. I am drawn to the sugar skull because I love the bright colors, patterns and imagery representing Mexican art and culture.

Roadrunner earns Fulbright Scholarship

Biology graduate Spencer Shute will study cognitive neuroscience in the Netherlands.

By Siet Wright

April 27, 2020

Spencer Shute

Spencer Shute never considered himself an ideal student. Shute struggled in high school and into his early college days at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Things changed, however, when the biology major decided to “hack” his brain to build healthy work habits that would help him succeed.

And succeed he has. Shute, an MSU Denver biology graduate, is on his way to earning a master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience at Radboud University in the Netherlands, thanks partly to a Fulbright Scholarship.

“My ultimate ambition in life is to develop an understanding of the mind,” said Shute. “This ambition has inspired me to travel and understand the perspectives of others.”

Broad curiosity and an interest in science initially compelled Shute to consider careers in STEM, with the long-term goal of applying for medical school, but a leadership experience in high school piqued his interest in cognitive neuroscience. While observing a group of middle-school students in an outdoor-education program, Shute was told to “watch out” for the students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), who were described as impulsive and inattentive. Noting the behavioral differences between ADHD students and neurotypical students eventually led him to work as a tutor and academic coach for learning-disabled students.

Shute now believes research into the neurophysiology of ADHD and associated disorders will quickly lead to important discoveries in childhood development, education and looming issues of mental health.

“We must not underestimate the pervasive afflictions of the mind that plague so many families and communities. But more importantly, we must not underestimate the profound progress that can be made should we decide to tackle such afflictions together,” he said.

With the help of the Fulbright Scholarship, Shute will study neural structure and function, focusing on the relationship among the brain, environment and behaviors. He also wants to immerse himself in an entirely new culture, share his own and carry what he’ll learn into his life and career.

“Such pursuits also define a personal mission to understand my world and feed a driving hunger for personal growth and self-improvement – no longer for myself but for my students, family and community,” he wrote in his Fulbright submission.

Shute attributes his success to the support of his family, friends and mentors at MSU Denver. In particular, he wishes to thank his academic mentors, biology Professors Clare Hays, DVM, and Jeff Simpson, D.C.

Lost and Found in Santa Fe:

Locals struggle with adapting to a changing economy

By Siet Wright

A small crowd formed outside the only pawn shop in Santa Fe– waiting to sell, waiting to buy, waiting for their turn to tell their story. The people conversed amongst each other, talking about the only bits of their lives valuable enough to sell. What they must sell and why they are there. They each came to the pawn shop to sell a treasured item for money, but they all have different reasons for waiting. A bullet hole spider webs the front door of the shop and a hand-written sign on the glass read, “We are closed to assist the Santa Fe Police Department in an investigation.”

The city had transformed in the last few decades with the Anglo art scene, and some New Mexicans that stayed struggle to keep up with the rising costs of living. For some, staying was a choice. For others, there was no choice. They can’t afford to leave, their families have lived there for generations, and there is nowhere to go anyways.

Bob Lopez of Santa Fe leaned against the adobe wall and waited patiently for the store to open. He had been waiting for 20 minutes to sell some rifles from his collection. He didn’t want to sell his guns, but he just turned 80 years old and had a respiratory disease that made him worry he may have reached his end.

“I’m getting along in years, and I don’t want to burden my wife with selling my things when I go,” Lopez said in a quiet voice. “I want to make sure all she has to worry about selling is the house, after I die.”

The man looked off into the distance and sunglasses partially hid moist eyes as his words trailed away. He wore a white golf shirt, and a white ball cap with the Nike logo on it. He crossed his arms and looked uncomfortable. He readjusted his position and leaned against the wall in attempt to look casual. A large black Nissan pickup truck entered the parking lot.  

“I don’t want her to worry about…” his own worries de-railed his train of thought and another person approached, saving him from his next words. The woman walked to the front of the store dressed in brightly colored garb, wearing a straw western hat, with a black band of silver bears wrapped around it. She was petite with long, onyx black hair and a few wiry lines of stark grey streaking it.

“They ain’t open, or what?” the woman asked with a loud and thick New Mexican accent, breaking the emotional moment of Lopez’ quiet thoughts.

“There’s a sign on the window, that says they had a shooting,” Lopez said to her. “We are just waiting for them to open the door.”

Maria Trujillo, 70, from Santa Fe, decided to join the waiters outside the pawn shop and share her story, too.

“I lost my job, because we ain’t busy no more. There used to be 20 of us, but now there’s just three,” Trujillo said. “I got to make my truck payment, so I came down here to sell some of my jewelry. I don’t want to sell, but I gotta have my truck.” Her hands were busy, flashed like birds darting around, searching in the pockets of her large black purse.

She pulled out a gallon-sized freezer bag full of old Indian jewelry, just as a third person joined the crowd waiting. He was tall and lean and dressed all in black. He heard the story from the others waiting, about the shooting investigation and decided to wait silently alongside them.

Trujillo showed each piece of jewelry one by one, to anyone interested. One piece was hand carved turquoise birds. The silver accents were pure sterling and the necklace was heavy and well-made. The next piece of jewelry was sterling silver, with red coral and a large silver horse centerpiece. Her asking price was $200 for the coral and silver necklace, and she hoped to get $100 for the turquoise. She mentioned again, that she didn’t want to sell the jewelry, but her husband had passed and since she lost her job, she had nothing else to fall back on.

Upon hearing her story, the tall man in black, Mike Johnson, 58, spoke up and asked to see the jewelry again. He offered her cash for two of her necklaces, and she accepted. After he had agreed to pay, she continued to offer selling points about the jewelry he had already bought.

Johnson had an easy smile, and a sun browned face full of lines. His accent declared that he wasn’t from Santa Fe and he offered that he was a New Zealander. He had bought the jewelry as a gift for his partner, and he assured Trujillo that she would love it. He promised that he would never sell the jewelry. This seemed to comfort the woman and she was quiet at last. Whether it was the comfort of knowing that her treasures would become someone else’s treasures, or the knowledge that for at least one more month she could keep her truck. She seemed momentarily assured.

Bob Lopez had hoped to sell his collectible rifles but had grown tired of waiting and said his goodbyes to the group. He listened and watched the exchange of cash and jewelry and he was ready to call it a day since no one had asked to see his guns.

After Lopez drove away in his silver Dodge Ram 3500 pickup, another car pulled into the parking lot and two men walked to the door. They were informed about the status of the shop and decided to wait. The 1:30 open time had long come and past, and the doors remained locked.

The group introduced themselves to one another and found common ground on many subjects. An hour passed, and another but they were comfortable chatting with their newfound friends outside of a closed pawn shop, where they were each hoping to find or sell something special.

More people came, but none stayed with the waiters who were lost in a long and meandering conversation. The talk turned from guns, to marijuana, to gentrification– then jumped to politics and the struggles of Latinos trying to survive in the rapidly changing Santa Fe economy.

Everyone who went to the pawn shop that day had something to find or something to sell. Some walked away empty handed, some made a new friend, but all walked away feeling like they had found something special after all. A connection with strangers that became friends.