Dear Immanuel members and friends,
Last night the COVID-19 reopening team met to consider the impact of the increasing number of COVID Delta variant cases, the increased infection rate in Northern Virginia, and the recommendation of the CDC against having large group gatherings this weekend. The two physician members of the team gave their professionally-informed assessment of the local and national situation. As a result, the team decided to recommend an immediate change, for this weekend:
On this coming Sunday, September 5, our 10:00am worship service will be live-streamed from the Sanctuary with only the participating staff (pastors, music director, youth director, live stream operator) and the scheduled soloist and the “Moment for Young Disciples” speaker present. (All of these people have been vaccinated). This decision comes too late for us to also schedule an outdoor in-person worship option for this weekend, so for this one weekend all of you will have remote access to worship only.
We deeply regret having to make this decision, but we feel it is necessary both to safeguard the health of our congregation and to do our part to slow the spread of the variant. You will be hearing more about worship plans for the coming weeks and also about in-person meetings. It is our hope and intention to provide in-person worship opportunities in addition to live-streaming, and we’re going to do our best to make it happen.
Our physician members told us that (as you may already know) the Delta variant is twenty times more transmissible than previous versions of the COVID virus. This alone is cause for concern. In addition, we have a new path for transmission as our children return to in-person school and college. Unvaccinated children are, of course, not protected against the virus, and even though for most a COVID infection is mild, a few do become severely ill, and there have been some child deaths. In fact there are US cities where due to Delta there are no pediatric ICU beds available. Again, the risk to our children is itself a cause for concern. Added to their own risk is the risk that children will undoubtedly transmit some COVID infections to adults outside of school, thus continuing the increased community transmission at the twenty-times Delta rate. The dynamics of this are hard to predict accurately, but in an indoor worship setting, even universal masking may not be enough to stop transmission under these circumstances. The physician members feel that our masked indoor service is at the far end of acceptable risk-taking. The team members present decided to take a more cautious path for this weekend. It’s also worth reiterating that the CDC is moving to an increasingly cautious position as shown by their recommendation that unvaccinated people not travel this weekend.
This is a fluid and hard-to-predict situation week by week. The plans for this weekend do not necessarily mean that smaller in person-activities at Immanuel will be canceled. We promise to keep you informed and to do everything in our power to nurture and maintain the loving community that we all so value at Immanuel.
Pastor Aaron (on behalf of the C-19 Team and the Session).