Friends, families and supporters:
 
Welcome to March. Today, we mark an unwelcome milestone—it was one year ago today that we experienced our first COVID-19 exposure scare. It’s hard to imagine it’s been a full year, and yet the calendar doesn’t lie. And, what a year it’s been for all of us.
 
As we reflect on the year gone by, we also look forward to the promise of ever-more numbers of our friends, colleagues and our families being vaccinated. We have reason to be optimistic, at least cautiously, and dare to think about getting back to some version of an inevitably new normal.
 
In anticipation of people JFGH supports and our staff becoming fully vaccinated, we are well underway working on revisions to our COVID-19 protocols. We are looking particularly at safely re-opening our MOST locations, welcoming visitors once more, bringing more of our staff back to in-person work, and encouraging and facilitating folks we support getting back to their jobs and day supports. Many of you have asked “when will we get back to normal?” Even as we are working on our protocols to accommodate safe and healthy returns to our new normal, what we can’t know is when. Or, at the least, we can’t know a precise when. As we continue to move forward with vaccinating people we support and our staff, we are certainly much, much closer to that new normal. But, setting a date certain is, at least for the moment, impossible.
 
As I’ve announced, we consider people being supported by JFGH and our staff to be fully vaccinated only after they’ve (a) received both doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, AND (b) four full weeks from the date of the second dose. (Note that while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has now received the US Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization, we are not aware that it is being offered in our community. This single-dose vaccine, if/when it becomes available, will be immediately followed by a four-week period to achieve JFGH’s operational definition of ‘fully vaccinated.’) This timing ‘clock’ is underway for the vast majority of people JFGH supports (at this writing, 89.6% of people we support have received both Pfizer/BioNTech doses), as well as our staff (87.4% of staff have received at least the first dose, with 54.8% receiving both doses).
 
We are also watching broader community vaccination rates, positivity rates and new case rates, all of which combine to inform, generally, the level of community virus ‘load.’ Decisions on re-opening to our new normal looks beyond just JFGH vaccinations to risk factors that are inherent to any sort of re-opening. This complicates our ability to define a date certain as well. The very good news is that COVID-19 positivity rates in each of Montgomery County, MD, and Loudoun and Fairfax Counties, VA, are all trending downward, and all are below 8.0%. Case counts in all three counties are down dramatically as well—these are all very good indicators.
 
However, we continue to urge caution, and direction from our partners in state governments, our Medical Advisory Panel, and experts in the communities in which we work agree. Re-opening, such as it is, will be methodical, cautious and gradual. Now is not the time to throw caution to the proverbial wind, even as we acknowledge how desperate we all are to get back to our lives as fully and as quickly as possible. So, while we recognize how colossal the impact of COVID-19 has been on everyone this last full year, we find ourselves in the unenviable position of begging your continued indulgence as we move slowly but surely forward.
 
Before signing off this week, I’ll make another plug for our upcoming MC Live on Saturday, 20 March, in the hopes that you’ll join us motzei Shabbat and our amazing partners at Matan, the Friendship Circle, along with the Bender JCC of Greater Washington, the Edlavitch JCC of Washington, DC and Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia, for an evening of laughter and connection. Register here, and I’ll look forward to seeing you!
 
Shabbat Shalom, all. Have a wonderful weekend.
 
David

David Ervin, JFGH CEO, dervin@jfgh.org