I’ve had several questions from pastors lately on what to do for church with this new surge. Let me help give some guidance based on data for your own area of when to go back to virtual (or move outdoors).
✅ 𝐒𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐭 𝐀𝐧𝐬𝐰𝐞𝐫: 𝐇𝐞𝐫𝐞’𝐬 𝐦𝐲 𝐠𝐮𝐢𝐝𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 – When should you go back to virtual or outdoors? When…
1. Positivity rates are more than 10%, or
2. >10 cases per 100,000, or
3. Hospitalization rates of ICU occupancy >75%
𝐈𝐧 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐜, 𝐰𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐧𝐞 (𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐰𝐨) 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐭 𝐚 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞. 𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐰𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐨𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫, 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞. 𝐓𝐡𝐚𝐭’𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐰. 𝐈 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐲 𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐨 𝐯𝐢𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐚𝐥 – 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐧 𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞 – because many areas (if you are in Texas, that’s most of the state) are seeing all three together. I know I keep saying this – but, the pandemic keeps worsening. RIght now, these three metrics are exceeded at the same time – which equals a high risk to our communities, neighbors, church members, and hospitals – at the same time. It’s a perfect storm that is different than the first two surges in the spring and summer time. Frankly, I’m not sure how to stress the gravity of the situation because of these three metrics being exceeded at the same time. We are so close to vaccines rolling out (slowly but surely). But, right now is critical and the vaccines will not come soon enough for many of our areas. Please go virtual if your area exceeds these metrics.
✅ 𝐋𝐞𝐭 𝐦𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐩 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐚 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐚 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐠𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐞𝐱𝐚𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐬:
1. Positivity rate – This is an indication of how well we are testing. If the number if above 5%, that means we are not testing enough to catch all cases – which indicates more spread can happen quickly. There are less than 5 states that are reporting positivity rates less than 5%. As a general rule, I’ve said we need to pull way back on church indoors when the positivity rate hits 8-10%. I still hold to that guideline. Anything over 10% indicates wildfire spread rather than simple fires of individual cases.
2. Cases per capita – This is another metric how widespread cases are in your area. This is also a red flag to us of what hospitalizations will look like in 2 weeks and deaths will look like 2-3 weeks after that. As a metric, anything over 10 cases per 100,000 people indicates accelerated spread. Anything over 25 is uncontrolled spread.
3. Hospitalization rates – States handle this differently. Most hospitals have a trigger warning when ICU occupancy hits 75% – this is when surge capacity starts to happen or when some elective surgeries are reduced or suspended.
✅ 𝐖𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐚 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐚?
1. Positivity rates – click on ‘Hot Spots’ and hover over your county.
2. Cases per 100,000 – click on ‘Hot Spots’ and hover over your county.
3. Hospitalization rates (ICU occupancy) – click on ‘Hospitalization’ and scroll down to ‘ICU hospitalizations by TSA’. Look for the grey bar to indicate how many ICU beds are available.
OTHER STATES (here’s how to find your county) –
1. Positivity rates – https://covidactnow.org/?s=1485441&utm_campaign=dec2020&utm_medium=banner&utm_source=ces
2. Cases per 100,000 population – https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/
3. Hospitalization rates – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/covid-hospitals-near-you.html **There are caveats and reporting lags between local, state, and national entities. So, some of the numbers in the website might be different than your local or state health department.
✅ 𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐠𝐨 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞? I know some churches are only closing for 2 weeks because of COVID+ members or clergy. Unfortunately, 2 weeks is likely not long enough with this surge. The peak is not projected until January 28th and then it will take through February to reach what we saw during the surge of the summer time. In other words, we will see the TOP of the summer surge by the end of February – that’s how why this surge is now. I would advise going virtual for at least 4 weeks to get everyone through the worst part of the surge (which will be coming). We are seeing vaccines roll-out, slowly but surely. This won’t be forever, but right now is critical. It’s not hard to see that in the data – this surge is not like the one in the Spring or the other in the Summer. In those surges, we did not see all three metrics exceeded at the same time – now we do which is a perfect storm.
✅ ***Some practical tips:
1. If (that’s a risky if) you continue indoor worship, masks should be mandatory at all times (even in the sanctuary) and distancing should still be observed. This is more critical now with this surge. If you want to hear me to discuss all this in a video with other pastors, here’s the link. The first 15ish minutes is me talking about the data I presented in this post, and then we move into a Q&A with the other pastors to hear what they have done. We also discuss why and how the Church can lead the way out of this. https://tinyurl.com/y3gqefht
2. I would encourage you to move the line. With this surge, towing the line for your congregration needs to be virtual or masking at all times. The line used to be choosing between mandatory masking versus masking-as-a-choice for indoor worship. This surge warrants a different line. Please don’t make masks optional, especially in the sanctuary, if you continue indoor worship.
3. If you have any questions on your area, please let me know. Happy to help with clergy! I’ve included an example from my county of McLennan County.
✅ And, how about some encouragement. I would love nothing more than the church to lead the way out of this – to go over and beyond what others are doing to love our neighbors. I know this is a hard decision for many of you. I hope this post has helped you see the gravity of the situation – and, that it is not forever! But, it is different than the other surges and warrants a different solution. It also highlights a new opportunity to our communities that need hope and relief. We, the Church, can be a huge part of that.
-Friendly neighbor pastor’s wife / epidemiologist ⭐
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ There are several new people on this site – welcome! Here’s my mantra for church during the pandemic and other posts I’ve done if you want to delve deeper: 𝐂𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐡, 𝐰𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐧𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐛𝐲 𝐩𝐫𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐏𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐦 𝟗𝟏 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐆𝐚𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝟓. 𝐖𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐛𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐞𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐦 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐂𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬.
Here are the posts where I talk about that more.
Let’s have Faith over Fear – https://tinyurl.com/yxsaatcf
…For our neighbors – https://tinyurl.com/y9ykykve
…While praying Psalm 91 and living Galatians 5 – https://tinyurl.com/y2od5n6f
…What if Christians led the way out of this? Redefining our freedom according to the Cross-https://tinyurl.com/y2qoow7t