At the beginning of the year as the omicron variant began to hit locally I made the decision to move worship back on line for the month of January. I said we would then re-evaluate our situation. Well, this weekend is the last Sunday in the month, so it’s time to re-evaluate and make a decision for the coming weeks.
Every day I check two Covid resources for our area to see what the situation is. The New York Times runs daily capsules of information for every county in the country. Today, as every other day I’ve checked, the risk level for Fulton, DeKalb, and Cobb counties is “extremely high.” The 14-day average says that cases are dropping, but for the last several days each county has seen a significant increase in new cases.
I also check another website, Covid Act Now, that gathers daily information from every county. It ranks the risk level for the three counties in which most of us live as “severe.” It also gives the percentage of positive tests in each county. Jodie Guest, from Emory’s School of Public Health, told clergy last fall that the goal was 5 percent or below, meaning that 5 percent or fewer of the people tested were positive. Today the rate for Fulton County is 20.1 percent; DeKalb is 19.9, and Cobb is 25.7. And now with many tests being done at home and not reported to the state, we can assume that those numbers are low.
Nationwide we are also still seeing the strength of the virus. On Monday of this week there were 1,140,580 new cases of Covid in the nation, and 2,642 deaths. We are closing in on the 900,000 deaths mark.
All of this information has made me decide we need to hold off on in-person worship for a while longer, a decision with which the vestry agrees. That’s not the decision I had hoped to make. Preaching to an empty church is not something I relish, but it is the responsible thing to do. This is not a diocesan mandate; the bishop is leaving it up to each rector to decide. Some of my colleagues have told me they cannot move back to online worship or even require masks because their congregation would rebel. I’m so glad to be in a place where people respect science and understand that living out our faith now means caring for one another.
Thank you to all who signed up to prepare and deliver food to Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in early March. We still need several things, including casseroles. You can sign up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0E4FACAA28AA8-meal
And finally, some news to make you smile. You remember that we sponsored a family of refugees from Syria in 2017-2019. A couple of years ago the Dallous moved to Pittsburgh, where there is a larger Syrian community. Last August Sana and Ibrahim, the parents of the family, became American citizens. Today Ibrahim texted to tell me that his mother, Aisha, is also now a citizen. Here’s a picture of the newest American.