February 9, 2022
Dear Beloved in Christ,
As we continue to live into our new normal, I want to share with you some observations of where we are as a diocese as well as my latest guidelines.

First, it continues to be the case that the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus is the dominant strain and it remains extremely contagious. At this time, 71% of the adult population is fully vaccinated with two doses and the daily percent positive test rate in North Carolina is now 20.2% (down from a high of 39% just two weeks ago).

Likewise, we know that children younger than 5 years old are sill not able to be vaccinated and there will always be adults that are immune-compromised, and all need extra protection and care.

The good news is that the daily percent positivity rate and hospitalization rates are slowly coming down and I remain hopeful that we will soon return to metrics that provide even greater flexibility in our church gatherings. I am also hopeful that in the coming weeks, the FDA will issue an Emergency Use Authorization for a Covid vaccine for children younger than 5.

In the meantime, I am offering the following guidelines:

  • While the majority of parishes in the diocese have voluntarily continued to require masks, the mandatory mask requirement for all indoor church gatherings is being extended until February 27, 2022.

  • Every clergy person in charge of a church and Vestry is strongly encouraged to remain vigilant and aware of the Covid-19 metrics in their local contexts as this will continue to provide additional helpful information as leadership bodies discern what is best for their church community.

  • I encourage each parish leadership team to continue to assess and assure that your church spaces are adequately ventilated.

  • I will talk directly with church leaders prior to my visitations during the rest of the month of February to gauge where each community is in relation to the current Omicron surge and plan accordingly.
Please know that I will continue to support our Clergy and Vestries, working with others as they see fit, to develop and implement plans for worship, fellowship and formation in their own congregation. As you can imagine, each parish setting is different and I trust each leadership team to do what is best for their community.

Finally, know that we will continue to assess the situation and as always, please reach out to me with any questions that I can address for you and your leadership.

I remain grateful for each of you and the ways you continue to serve God’s people in Western North Carolina.

The Rt. Rev. José A. McLoughlin
The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina
900B CentrePark Drive
Asheville, NC 28805