Join First Church member Dr. Rebecca Fielding-Miller on June 21 at 6 pm to learn about the results of our recent congregational COVID-19 priority survey. This townhall will cover stated congregational priorities, recommended strategies to keep ourselves safe, and some recent updates on scientific knowledge on the state of the pandemic. Dr. Fielding-Miller is an Assistant Professor of Public Health at the UC San Diego School of Public Health, with a joint appointment in the UCSD School of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health. She holds a PhD in public health from Emory University, and a Masters of Science in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Join the Meeting at https://bit.ly/C19SurveyResults
The Reopening Team would like to share some changes we're making. But before getting to the practical changes in our COVID policies and procedures, we’d like to take a moment to share a little of what we learned from our recent survey and frame the work that we’re doing in the context of our UU Principles and Values. We’re overjoyed to report that 292 people responded to our survey and that the responders accurately represented the demographic makeup of our congregation and both of our campuses. It is fair to say that this is the largest response and most accurate representation of any survey at First UU in recent times. Thanks to church member Dr. Rebecca Fielding-Miller for the masterful work done in creating it and analyzing the data! Please watch the Window for an upcoming forum to discuss survey results. Read on for a few key takeaways.
We'll be back together again for in-person, outdoor worship services on the patio at our Hillcrest campus! Masked, reasonably distanced, and with a clear expectation that all who can do so will be fully vaccinated. This includes a booster.
UCSD Health this week published a new study on the effectiveness of vaccines and the high transmissibility rate of Covid's Delta variant. The data are very concerning. Even in a more than 80% vaccinated workforce, vaccine effectiveness appears to be waning, down in July to 65% from 95%. This likely comes from the Delta surge combined with the end of indoor mask mandates. Please note that while vaccine effectiveness does seem to wane over time, let us be clear that vaccines are still our best single defense against the virus. The overall risk in San Diego had already been creeping up. The number of cases and deaths make us a high-risk area. And the latest UUA guidelines for high-risk areas like ours is to suspend all large in-person gatherings, both indoors and out.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is causing increased cases everywhere. We no longer have any true "no risk" situations. Fortunately, the vaccines are highly effective, though slightly less so among the elderly and those immuno-compromised. The variant is as contagious as chicken pox and can hit the not vaccinated really hard, including children. Vaccinated persons are FAR less likely to face possible hospitalization or worse. The disease can surely be spread by those not vaccinated who pick up the virus, but also by fully vaccinated people who may become infected even without showing symptoms. Getting vaccinated is the primary responsible thing we can do, for ourselves and others. We surely don't want to help perpetuate health disparities among those who are marginalized in any way, who may face more crowded living conditions and fewer work options than some do.
Our experiences with small group meetings are going well. No major issues have arisen, and we feel more confident about how other meetings may go. Any other small groups that wish to begin to meet on campus should apply for permission through Robie Evans. Church groups are free to meet off campus. Vaccinations are recommended. Mask wearing should continue. Of course anyone with symptoms should not participate. Each group leader should keep track of those who attend. Larger groups, up to about 30 people, will now be permitted to meet on campus. Please apply through Robie Evans to get the okay. The on-campus mask "mandate" continues, along with the other recommendations set out for small groups. The church has acquired a portable sound system which could help facilitate large group meetings.
As we continue to consider our reopening situation, here are some factors:
The pandemic situation and official recommendations are changing rapidly. We as a team are continuing to keep abreast as we prepare guidelines specific to our church situation.
We have stated it will soon be okay to resume the lowest-risk types of in-person gatherings. These are small groups in outdoor settings, provided they observe the several precautions and procedures we outlined in our last update. Opening date for these meetings will be announced soon.
Your team studying how to safely resume in-person activities at church realizes full well how anxious everyone is to return. The team continues to look at government regulations, agency guidelines and scientific details. Much care lies behind any recommendations.
As vaccines begin to roll out and we mark the longest nights of the year, many of us are celebrating our first hints of future light and hope at the end of what has been a long and lonely ten months. Your re-opening committee has been meeting regularly to discuss not how to open our church – our church community has always been open – but when we might be able to see one another in person and how we can best do that safely.
The Reopening Team has been researching and responding to your questions as our region continues to experience fluctuating and sometimes confusing COVID guidelines. As San Diego is currently in Tier 1 (Purple) on the state's infection scae, gatherings of any size are considered unsafe. However, we have been sharing ideas and we invite you to read the questions and answers so far. Steve H. sent in this one "I agree that we cannot get back to “normal” for many, many months, maybe years. But that does not mean that we must have no in-person activities. Please tell me if you think this suggestion is not advisable, and why."
The team is studying how and when we might safely come together again in person. The following is an example of the thinking we believe is worth sharing. Here is the beginning of a recent article by Aaron E. Carroll, a physician in Indiana: "Stop Expecting Life to Go Back to Normal Next Year: Americans will need to take pandemic precautions well into 2021 — yes, even after a vaccine arrives by "Dr. Anthony Fauci warned us last week that Covid-19 is likely to be hanging over our lives well into 2021. He’s right, of course. We need to accept this reality and take steps to meet it rather than deny his message. Many Americans are resistant to this possibility. They’re hoping to restart postponed sports seasons, attend schools more easily, enjoy rescheduled vacations and participate in delayed parties and gatherings. It is completely understandable that many are tiring of restrictions due to Covid-19. Unfortunately, their resolve is weakening right when we need it to harden. This could cost us dearly".
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