***And, another note to churches in areas with morgue trucks.***
Goodness, y’all. It’s taken me a few days to write this one. I write this one because I think it is a story many of you around the US are experiencing or will experience in the weeks to come. I hesitated to share this post – I don’t want it to come across as “sensationalized” or “over-exaggerated” or “fear-mongering” – that’s not my job. My job is to see beyond that to the population (that’s what epidemiology is). This week – it hit close to home.
𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐤, 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐦𝐚𝐲𝐨𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐲 𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐮𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐤. 𝐈𝐧 𝐦𝐲 𝐜𝐢𝐭𝐲. 𝐅𝐨𝐫 𝐦𝐲 𝐧𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐬. Somehow, we (the US) have lost sight that deaths are occurring in higher numbers than normal and that those deaths are individual dads, grandmas, sisters, friends- not statistics. One of the results of believing the conspiracy theories is a morgue truck. For our own communities, neighbors, and families. This is just not normal. Why has it become acceptable? Go here for more on the false reality: https://tinyurl.com/y5562u8x
My city, Waco in McLennan County, has held a weekly news conference for months with our Mayor, our County Judge, local health authorities, leaders from our largest healthcare systems, and leaders from our main clinic providing care to our poorest parts of the city, the Family Health Center. These weekly updates have been incredibly well organized with real-time data on local cases, hospitalizations, deaths, economic recovery, and plain ole’ good advice. I’ve appreciated how “human” these meetings have felt – most have families and are dealing with the school issues of sending kids back or not; our Judge talks emotionally and passionately about trying very hard to protect our businesses; Dr. Griggs (who leads the free clinic in town) talks about the need to protect our most vulnerable in terms of poverty; our healthcare leaders talk about their rock-star employees but also how tired and strained their staff is. Texas has a trigger metric to reduce capacity for businesses when we reach 15% hospital capacity for 7 consecutive days. All persons on the weekly meeting have stressed tirelessly that noone wants businesses to suffer, especially in Waco, when we have seen an economic boom – but, we have a high poverty rate. The poverty rate in Waco is nearly 30% – and in some areas of town, nearly 90% of children receive free or reduced-price lunch. These stats are higher than the State of Texas.
𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗, 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐧𝐮𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐡𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐓𝐞𝐱𝐚𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐔𝐒. If you look at Picture 1, that probably looks a lot like the curve in the area you are in. When it comes to hospitalizations, our county has no more ICU beds (Picture 2). Our county has 39 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents (compare this to 31 in Texas and 29 in the US).
𝐒𝐨, 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐤’𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐚𝐲. 𝐌𝐜𝐋𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐚𝐧 𝐂𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐲 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐮𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐤. Our Mayor said, “Although local mortuary services are not at capacity, there has been an increase in usage. With the continual rise in hospitalization, there is a risk for an increased number of deaths.” Our local mortuaries and funeral homes can meet the demands right now. But, the morgue truck is in preparation of what we are at risk of seeing with deaths – they based this on what other parts of Texas have seen – places like El Paso that showed exponential growth, then hospital surges, then morgue trucks being needed. You might have seen those pictures where prisoners were asked to help with the influx of bodies. Other places in Texas, like Lubbock, have a standby morgue truck too.
Friends, this is the whole point of us (epidemiologists, public health officials, local health authorities) writing and speaking about COVID-19 day after day after day. The majority of us receive no financial gain, career advancements, or accolades for any of this work – and, most of us don’t want any of that and were not the reasons we got into this profession. It’s simply to help educate the public on the truth of the situation. Today, that truth is the probable need for a morgue truck. In my city. For my neighbors. Many of you in other parts of the US are living this same scenario.
𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐔𝐒. 𝐈’𝐦 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐠𝐠𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐭. 𝐒𝐨, 𝐈’𝐥𝐥 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐭 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞. 𝐋𝐞𝐭’𝐬 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐧𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐬. 𝐈𝐧 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐢𝐝𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟-𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐤 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞. 𝐈𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐮𝐚𝐥 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐬 𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬. 𝐒𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐮𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐠𝐮𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐤.
***A special note to churches: I know I keep circling back to ask churches to proactively show solidarity to your community by moving outside, online, or requiring masks at ALL times. In light of the morgue trucks being deployed all over the US (just google your area), this can still be one of our greatest display of the Gospel to our communities. I receive messages from people that do not understand why hospitals are full in their area, but churches are still meeting with masks being an optional choice based on comfort level. As a Christian, as a ministry-family, I don’t understand it either. Many areas let churches have a mask exemption that makes no sense from a public health perspective. Leaders, please see this an opportunity to be the Good Samaritan and not walk by our healthcare systems, long-term care facilities, and mortuaries. We can still have our food banks and testing clinics. But, people are watching what we do or do not do in our sanctuaries at our response or non-response. To you leaders who have taken the brave choice to move outside, online, or require mask at all times in the sanctuary, thank you. I know that has come at a cost for many of you. I’ve read all of your messages and believe me, there are lots and lots of others standing with you. All church sources about indoor mask recommendations, mask exemptions, living according to Galatians 5, and the main church webinar are linked at the end.***
-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist
El Paso story and picture – https://www.texastribune.org/2020/11/15/coronavirus-texas-el-paso-inmates-morgue-deaths/
Waco Trib article about the weekly news conference – https://wacotrib.com/news/local/mclennan-county-secures-refrigerated-truck-as-potential-covid-19-mobile-morgue/article_bd0ed27a-34e3-11eb-a456-d3b0e26bec38.html
McLennan County data – https://sph.uth.edu/dept/bads/covid19-dashboard
𝐂𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐡 𝐖𝐞𝐛𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2XfobrA7wA…
𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐜𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐬 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐠𝐨 𝐛𝐞𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐤 𝐞𝐱𝐞𝐦𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬: https://tinyurl.com/y5aou2b6
C𝐌𝐃𝐀 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭: https://cmda.org/a-plea-to-our-churches/…
𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐂𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐡/𝐅𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬:
1. Who are the neighbors? https://tinyurl.com/y9ykykve
2. What does it mean to have faith over fear? Praying Psalm 91 and living Galatians 5. I also talk about John MacArthur’s stance on church and masking in this post. https://tinyurl.com/yxsaatcf
3. Now is the time to rethink indoor church: https://tinyurl.com/y5uk354l
4. This is the best sermon I’ve heard so far on this topic by Andy Stanley. If you haven’t heard it yet, I’d highly recommend it.: https://tinyurl.com/y6fqajxc
5. Masks are faith-filled and faith-ful. Faith-filled is about us. Faith-ful is about the neighbor. Both/And are important.. The distinction matters. https://tinyurl.com/y2od5n6f