How ’bout some good news? Then the bad news? A quick reminder that viruses mutate a lot – that’s shown in the picture on this post and only includes mutations from December 2019 to April 2020 – That’s a lot of mutations! We are just hearing about them more lately right now because of social media and 2020. It can sound scary (and sometimes it is). Let me help alleviate some of your worries about this new strain.
✅ Good news
1. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines look to not be affected by the new strain, named B.1.1.7. A few days ago, I wrote about what to worry about with these new strains regarding the vaccines (go here to catch up on that: https://tinyurl.com/y83wd84k). It has to do with the spike protein – we worry when this changes substantially enough that the vaccines don’t work anymore. That does not look to be the case with this new strain. Go get that shot – either one!
2. This new strain does not look like it increases the severity of disease or risk of death. Yes to that good news!
😝 Bad news
1. The new strain does appear to be more contagious – in fact, up to 70% more contagious. As an example, this new strain accounted for 25% of cases in London in November and 60% at the beginning of December, just a few weeks later. That’s a pretty quick increase and highlights how contagious this strain is.
2. Even though the new strain does not increase the risk of severe illness or death, it will lead to more infections at one time. We know that many areas are already strained with the surge of cases and hospitalizations (even people with non-severe cases are hospitalized). So, that’s my worry with this new strain. It is more contagious and will compound the surge even more. More people being sick at the same time means people being out of work at the same time (think of healthcare systems, schools, essential workers) and more hospitalizations (which always follow case increases by 2 weeks).
𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐮𝐬? Being even more cautious. Remember a few days ago when I talked about needing a new game plan for January? I used the analogy of the umbrella and how that won’t work against a storm surge or tidal wave or hurricane. This new strain contributes to the onslaught of rain and winds by 50-70%. The new strain is probably more widespread than we think too – the US does not have the surveillance needed to “catch” these new strains as part of the COVID-19 response (see the CDC source below). What does that mean? It means the more pro-active we can be, the better. A more contagious strain like B.1.1.7 can catch people by surprise pretty quickly. Vigilance, hunkering down, protecting your mental health, and pro-active measures are needed, friends. I hope this helps to calm some of the worries you might have.
-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist
***If you are new to the FNE site, welcome! I am also in a ministry family (my hubs is a pastor) – so, I often talk about church and faith with the pandemic. Hence, my slogan from the beginning of this 2020 pandemic has been “love your neighbor” and I deeply believe in the power and opportunity that people of faith can have in responding to the pandemic through the lens of Jesus. That’s why I often have these notes specifically to clergy and people of Christian faith at the end of some posts.
⛪️ A note for pastors, clergy, and church members: I know many of you are likely planning for 2021, when to open up, when to have on-campus sunday school/bible study, etc. This is uncharted territory with the surge (remember we haven’t seen a surge like this in the past 8 months either) ON TOP of the new strain. I just can’t over-emphasize to you how uncharted this is and how serious it is. So, my encouragement? Let’s show the world that is watching our responses that we choose Galatians 5 and Psalm 91 (see the ‘Masks are faith-filled and faith-ful’ post below). Go virtual, outdoors, and wait a bit longer to open up. If you are open, I would strongly encourage re-thinking that in light of the new strain and surge. If your area has a positivity rate above 10%, you should highly consider going online again. Remember positivity rates are indicators that we are not catching all infections, contributing to spread. Anything above 8-10% is worrisome and shows we have more community spread.
High positivity rates + the new strain + the high surge/hospitalizations = a very worrisome situation for indoor church. Please go online. If you haven’t watched the church webinar for pastors, I would encourage you to watch it. We go pretty in-depth on all of these issues more. The more pro-active we can be, the better. And, I’d love for Christians to lead the way out of this: What if Christians led the way out of this? Redefining our freedom according to the Cross- https://tinyurl.com/y2qoow7t
If you are a church member, I would encourage you to not go to in-person services for a while.
⛪️ Other faith posts:
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
Faith over fear: Including a discussion on John MacArthur – https://tinyurl.com/yxsaatcf
Recommendations for church in the midst of a surge – https://tinyurl.com/y6ez4ydx
WEBINAR: Church video – Church and COVID: A Conversation with Dr. Emily Smith – https://tinyurl.com/y3gqefht
CDC website regarding new strains: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/science-and-research/scientific-brief-emerging-variants.html
A great article about virus mutations (and source of the picture): https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid19-mutations-strains-variants