Among other things, John Wesley said, “Do no harm.” This is the theme of our discussions regarding the church and Covid. Your Covid Task Force meets weekly to review public health data and recommendations from the CDC in order to make a decision about whether to hold worship services in person or online. We also have guidance from Bishop Bard who presides over the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. In a recent video, Bishop Bard advised churches experiencing substantial or high community spread (defined as a 7-day average test positivity rate of 5% or greater) to look carefully at how to safely operate. The positivity rate for Lenawee County posted on 9/21/21 was between 12.1 and 13.3%. Here is some information that may help you understand our decision-making.
Why were we in person in the summer and now we are not?
Because of the introduction and spread of the Delta variant (now the dominant strain).
- This strain is more infectious which means it takes fewer viral particles and less time of exposure to acquire an infection.
- Research has shown that vaccinated individuals temporarily carry as much virus in the nasopharynx (nose and throat) as an unvaccinated person does. The vaccinated person may or may not progress with symptoms, but they can spread virus.
- Virus transmission occurs through respiratory droplets of various sizes. The smallest ones stay airborne the longest, therefore indoors with poor ventilation is a higher risk environment.
- As posted by the Lenawee County Health Department on 9/22/21, the county vaccination rate for two doses of vaccine is 42.6%, and children under twelve are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
- Masks reduce the risk of transmission, but they do not eliminate the risk. Vaccines significantly reduce the risk of an infected person needing hospitalization and dying. But research shows that vaccine protection is reduced over time and vaccines do not protect people from all symptoms of the Delta variant, possibly serious symptoms.
- Lenawee County is rated as high risk for transmission of Covid and each week the number of new cases has been slowly increasing.
If in person worship is not being held indoors, why is it acceptable to meet outdoors?
We are avoiding the higher risk indoor setting and accepting the lower risk associated with an outdoor setting.
Current CDC and MDHHS information:
- The CDC rates risk of Covid transmission in counties as low, moderate, substantial, or high risk. For several weeks, Lenawee County has been classified as high risk for transmission (high transmission is 100 or more cases per 100,000 people or a positivity rate of 10% or higher).
- In areas of high transmission, it is recommended that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors. When outdoors, masks are recommended in areas with crowded conditions that do not allow for social distancing (viruses do not survive well in sunlight, and even a slight breeze rapidly causes dilution of any airborne pathogens).
The members of the Task Force really want to return to church activities being in person, we pray for that, and we have difficult conversations each week because we know that fellowship and community are important to all of our members. But until the test positivity rate and accompanying risk levels in the county drop, we will err on the side of caution to safeguard the health of our members, whether vaccinated or especially if they are unvaccinated. –Professor Janet Salzwedel, Ph.D., Adrian College on behalf of the Adrian FUMC Covid Task Force