Given that children under the age of 12 are ineligible for the vaccine, the drastic increase in infections in this age group, and the more dangerous outcomes for the young and those who struggle with other medical conditions, the session voted by an overwhelming majority to make the following changes to our current COVID-19 policies:
- The session strongly encourages everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask while indoors at the church.
- The session strongly encourages everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to practice social distancing.
- The session strongly encourages everyone to be vaccinated if they have not yet done so.
There are many factors that went into this decision. At the emergency meeting on Sunday, August 8, the session heard evidence from officials and the COVID-19 subcommittee on the rising trend of COVID-19 infections in our area. According to communications from Ballad Health and its Emergency Operations Center, the delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire throughout our region. In the past two weeks, inpatient treatment for the virus has tripled, and Ballad Health expects hospitalizations to double every week unless everyone does their part to mitigate the spread. Moreover, this has had great impact on children under the age of 18, with a sharp increase in young children being hospitalized, some even being put on ventilators, and quite a few suffering “long-haul” symptoms most commonly seen in adults with the virus.
In short, there are real and credible threats to the health and well-being of our community, especially the young and vulnerable. However, our response to this threat is not motivated by a fear of these factors, but rather our shared sense of duty to protect the health of our brothers and sisters. Therefore, we ask everyone to take these requests seriously.
In addition to these steps, staff will all wear masks during worship and other indoor events at the church. The worship team will be tested for COVID-19 with the Abbott Labs rapid test every Sunday morning before worship so that they can sing unmasked. The same will be true of those who preach or are involved in liturgy. The choir will be in the balcony, sing spaced out, and wear masks when not singing. The time for the anthem will be changed to reduce the risk of transmission, especially to children. During the passing of the peace, we will ask people to stay in place. We also ask that people avoid clustering in any one area for too long. On Wednesday, we will reduce the number of seats available at each table, and we will have everyone served from a line rather than in the self-serve style of previous years. Also, everyone who works with kids in our children's ministry will be vaccinated and wear masks. We are working on getting regular, online offerings up and running again for families who elect to remain home during this surge.
We know that this isn't the news everyone wanted to hear, but this is where we are. Let's all be part of the solution.