August 3, 2021
In our Report from last month, we closed with the below:
“The new Delta variant frankly we expect to find its way into Iowa. We will monitor and respond appropriately to keep all of us safe – Adults, Children, Congregants and Church Staff with the result that our wise decisions help to keep the greater community safe as well.
As we have said in basically all our past task force letters, we desperately want this journey to be over, but our course yet requires us to make some carefully chosen steps to prevent us from stumbling within sight of the finish line.”
Unfortunately, the Delta variant, although not severely affecting Iowa at present, is exploding across the country, and frankly seems destined to follow a similar path in Iowa.
Here is a brief summary of what the CDC now knows about this currently geometrically expanding Delta Covid Situation:
• For people who are vaccinated, there is currently very little risk to vaccinated people of getting seriously ill and/or dying from the Delta variant.
• For unvaccinated people who get sick from the Delta variant, results are suggesting that this variant is more virulent, making people sicker, faster.
• The Delta variant is also proving much more infectious than previous versions. The CDC has said that the Delta variant is equivalent to the chicken pox in transmissibility – this is a very, very high infectious level.
• Alarmingly, the amount of breakthrough infections in vaccinated people is greater than the CDC had estimated. These people may not even know they are sick.
• In addition, the really bad news is that these vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections of the Delta variant, harbor virus quantities in their bodies almost as high as it is in an infected person who is very ill. This means even vaccinated persons can spread the virus to others. The extent to which this is true is a very bad change.
The upshot of all of this is that we now know that even vaccinated persons can be a huge source of new infections – and this appears to be exactly what is happening in Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and other states. This dangerous development is why the CDC has reverted to saying everyone – even vaccinated persons – needs to be wearing masks in indoor public settings (see info at CDC website).
The CDC’s new recommendation may seem to some as indecisive, as ridiculous flip-flopping. It is not. Decisively sticking to a decision when the situational realities have changed drastically would be a wrong move, and a disaster. The situation is changing, what we know about the situation is growing, and the CDC is responding to the new realities.
This is the true nature of science. New data prompt new thinking. Further, the ways of the virus are complex and terribly difficult to model. Confident-sounding predictions may provide comfort but are often wrong. Those who know the most humbly admit that they don’t fully know how things will play out and so make recommendations calculated to maximize safety. And we, at Grinnell UCC, play for team safety.
We will be monitoring the situation and closely following CDC recommendations. Specifically relevant to us is the recommendation for “fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.” Transmission level is based on case number as a percent of population. As of this writing, Poweshiek County is considered moderate but all surrounding counties are substantial or high. You can monitor this yourself at the CDC COVID Tracker site. Use the lists to select state and county then scroll down to see the data.
Given these realities, continuing to open up the church further at this point is not an option. Rather we will be reinstating more protective measures. Right now, this means that everyone must mask at gatherings indoors at the church. If the situation continues to deteriorate, we may need to move back to an on-line only worship service until conditions improve. Fortunately, our technology and process in livestreaming the service have much improved. We are watching the situation daily and will be in regular contact with you regarding appropriate safety responses.
This may seem a bit of a broken record at this point, yet it is as true today as the first time we said it – we desperately want this journey to be over, and we wish dearly that we could continue to open up more, but the situation is currently getting worse not better. We know that the about face will be painful, but we are strong. Further, since we know that outdoor gatherings are currently quite safe, plans are in the works for some outdoor services where we can sing hymns and partake of the communion elements together.
Our faith holds firmly that we are our siblings’ keeper. Us vaccinated folk need to help keep others safe, even if we may be relatively safe ourselves.
Matthew 25:45 He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Thank you all for your faith, your patience, your kindness and your support during this COVID Pandemic that is the worst public health threat of virtually all of our lifetimes.
– John Ashby & Josh Sandquist, Grinnell UCC COVID Task Force