***** Thursday, August 5 Update
Update: This pastoral letter has been in process since Monday, endured several revisions and then scheduled to come to you this morning. I write this brief update on Thursday afternoon in order to share important new information that requires your attention.
This week, two Yates members from two different households grew symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19. Both are fully vaccinated and were in attendance in Sunday School and worship this past Sunday, August 1. Durham Public Health officials advise the following:
- If you are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, your risk of infection is low and your status is considered low/no contact.
- If you are not fully vaccinated, your risk of exposure and infection is higher, whether or not you are experiencing symptoms personally. If you are not fully vaccinated and were present for worship on Sunday, please contact me for further follow-up with Durham County Public Health so they can advise about potential need for testing or contact tracing.
- If you are symptomatic for COVID-19, please seek out testing very soon. If your test is positive, please contact me for follow up. A list of possible symptoms is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
Thank you for working together to help protect the health and safety of our community. Please read the message below carefully in order to be fully informed about how our congregation is taking steps this week.
This week, the church will be revising its standards for interior gatherings. I’ll confess, I had to dig a little deeper to engage these thoughts again. May, June and July have been such wonderful times of worship, mission and reconnection in the Yates fellowship. I do not want to lose what we have reclaimed in engagement and growing morale. I’m sure you don’t either. Yet, integrity demands we honestly engage the best information that comes to us.
Our policy has always been to integrate the information we receive from the Centers for Disease Control and NC Department of Health and Human Services. After consulting with the Yates Resumption Roundtable, I want you to know about revisions that we will implement right away.
At present, Yates will not curtail in-person gatherings. However, we will require masking for all persons, regardless of vaccination status. Also, we will maintain appropriate distancing at in-person meetings, regardless of size. Keith has worked hard to find ways to accommodate the ministry of the choir with singing masks and the orchestra with specially-designed playing masks. The only exception will come as speakers address the congregation, who may remove their masks long enough to speak.
In short, Yates will maintain all its rhythms of in-person worship and gatherings, but ask you modify your practice and participation by masking and conscientious distancing for the time being. As always, we recognize some are not comfortable coming inside, and I’m happy for the regular access offered through the Yates live stream. Additionally, there are many ways we continue to connect online for discipleship opportunities and committee meetings.
These modifications come as the CDC has updated preventative recommendations, even for vaccinated persons. A summary of those recommendations is found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html. Of particular interest is the “recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.” Durham meets criteria for “high transmission”: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view).
The vast majority of increased infections, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID are among those who have not yet received vaccination. I honor everyone’s freedom to make personal healthcare choices without manipulation, and remain convinced by all my consultation with medical researchers and caregivers that vaccination is the wisest precaution for all those for whom it is medically appropriate. If you want to know if it is appropriate for you, consult with your personal healthcare provider. If you have general questions about the efficacy and safety testing that has developed COVID vaccines, many in the Resumption Roundtable are happy to answer your questions as best as we can.
Our purpose in remaining nimble in this time, of course, is to maintain what we have gained, celebrate the joy of community and play our part in supporting the general health of our shared neighborhood and world. Thank you for your patience and persistence! These are some of the many things I know our congregation possesses in abundance. We will see this through. If you haven’t already, break out your masks and smile with your eyes this Sunday!
Grace and Peace,