July 30, 2021
Dear friends in Christ,

As we are now aware, the CDC has issued new guidelines strongly encouraging people who are vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus to wear masks indoors in areas with substantial or high Covid transmission rates. “Substantial” transmission rate is defined by the CDC as 50 – 99 cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days, and “high” transmission rate is defined by the CDC as more than 100 cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days. Likewise, the Secretary of Health for the State of North Carolina also shared yesterday that our numbers of infections and hospitalization are not decreasing but are rapidly increasing. 

At this time I am not mandating mask wearing for any indoor church gatherings, including worship, however I am strongly advising every parish leadership team of clergy and vestry to study the transmission rate in their local context and determine what is best for your community. I recognize the need to protect all children who are not yet able to get the vaccine as well as those who are immune compromised; it is vital each parish explore every option that will keep your community safe. Please continue to use the NC County Alert System and County Vaccination Percentage as a part of your decision-making process. Know that I will continue to support the decisions made by the leadership of each church community as to what they determine is best.

Likewise, I will continue to monitor the evolving situation with the Delta variant and if it becomes necessary, I will issue a revision of the guidelines I shared in an email on June 17, 2021 (you can follow this link to read that letter).

Overall, I strongly encourage the following:

  • Please host as many church-related gatherings outside as often as possible.
  • Please continue to provide disposable masks and hand sanitizer at all gatherings.
  • Please continue encouraging everyone in your communities to get vaccinated.

I remain grateful for the innumerable ways you are caring for God’s people and bearing witness to the Good News of Jesus’ redeeming love.

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