Masking has been a significant part of our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 since we resumed in-person services in October 2020. The Deacons and Ushers have appreciated the understanding and cooperation of our congregation and singers in the more than two years since we asked all to mask. As COVID and its evolving variants have become part of daily life with little sign of letting up, mask fatigue has set in, and requests to make masking optional have increased. Vaccines have definitely helped reduce the severity of COVID illness, but not so much the risk of COVID infection as newer variants have succeeded in evading the wall of immunity put up by vaccines and previous infection. That leaves masking and distancing the primary tools we have to avoid infection in ourselves as well as passing it to others.
Fatigue after nearly three years of masking is certainly understandable, particularly as we see masking greatly decreased on the street and in other venues. We should be aware, though, that in venues where health of people is of greater concern than commercial interests, masks continue to be required. So where should we be in this regard? Feedback from other United Church of Christ (UCC) churches via the Hawai‘i Conference UCC finds that, as you might expect, they vary in their policies. However, the move toward optional masking is increasing.
Though we have done well in preventing spreader events with our masking policy in these past two years, we do feel it is time to consider moving to optional masking. It would be prudent, however, to wait the two months or so to early Spring to allow the Winter surge of the respiratory trifecta (COVID variant, RSV, Flu) to subside before we do. We will continue to monitor the result as well as welcome your feedback as we proceed. Do remember that COVID, in its constantly changing and infectious forms, will continue to be with us—so wearing a mask while among people still protects one’s neighbor as much as, or more than, it protects oneself. And get vaccinated and boosted!
—Dr. Nathan Wong, on behalf of the Reopening Liaison Team and the Church Council