St. Simons Presbyterian Church
A Note Regarding the Coronavirus
March 5, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ:

Last week federal health officials advised hospitals, schools, churches and other public facilities to begin making preparations for the anticipated spread of the coronavirus in the United States. 

Although we have no reason at this point to believe there is any immediate danger to our church or community here in the Golden Isles, I am sending this message today in order to communicate what we hope is helpful information as well as share some practical suggestions for you to consider.

First, as with any developing story, there is a lot of misinformation floating around. I want to encourage you to approach this public health concern by educating yourself, keeping up with the latest developments, and being extra careful about hygiene and cleanliness. You can find links to a number of reliable online resources at the bottom of this message.

Here at the church we have ordered additional wall-mounted hand sanitizer stations that we will be installing at all main entry/exit points around the building as soon as they arrive. Our program, preschool, and cleaning staffs are also operating with a heightened awareness of the importance of disinfecting all surfaces around the church after use. Additionally, we certainly understand and support anyone who would prefer to substitute a handshake or hug with a simple fist bump or friendly nod as you greet one another at church.

Although these steps will help, experts continue to stress that the best precautions we can take are:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Frequently.
  • Keep your hands away from your nose and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people as much as possible.
  • Don't go to work (or school, or church) if you are feeling sick.

Finally, I want to remind you of a story I shared several Sunday's ago involving our friend and PCUSA mission co-worker in Taiwan, Rev. John McCall. At the time, Taiwan was just beginning to feel the effects of the COVID-19 virus. Anxiety was already ratcheting up across the country as John attended worship one Sunday at a church being pastored by a former student of his. After the welcome and announcements, the pastor calmly reminded his congregation that as Christians they do not have to fear. "In the midst of an anxious population," he told them, "we can be agents of Christ's peace."

Along with all of you, we will be monitoring the situation as it continues to develop in the coming days and weeks. If further precautionary measures are necessary, we will communicate them to the congregation in a timely manner. In the meantime, please be assured that we will continue worshipping, serving, and sharing God's love in our community and beyond. Together, let us be in prayer for all of those already impacted by this virus and may we too seek to be agents of Christ's peace.

Peace ,

Alan Dyer

Helpful Links & Articles

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an extensive site,  Coronavirus Disease 2019 , that explains what this virus is, how it spreads and how you can protect yourself. It also provides the latest updates and offers expert advice for travelers, public facilities and healthcare professionals.

The Georgia Department of Health Coastal Health District  Coronavirus  site also has useful information, including local resources and current statistics, such as how many cases of coronavirus infection have been reported in our area so far (answer: zero). 

This article,  You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus , published by  The Atlantic , is both informative and reassuring. It makes clear why this virus is so difficult to contain, but also emphasizes that most cases are not life-threatening. As Dr. Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard epidemiologist, says, “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic.” 

This series  in the  New York Times  is another good repository of current reporting and practical advice, including a recent piece on  what parents need to know . The article “How to Prepare for the Coronavirus” lays out many of the basic precautions all of us can take to protect ourselves (and others) from this new virus. They are, in effect, the same precautions the CDC recommends every year during flu season:

  • Wash your hands. Frequently.
  • Keep your hands off your face, particularly your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Get a flu shot.
  • Disinfect the surfaces in your home and office.
  • Don’t go to work (or school, or church) if you are feeling sick.