|Image of SARS-CoV-2 by Felipe Esquivel Reed 2020|
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Coronavirus – Healthy Church Update
In the past week, the COVID-19 epidemic caused by SARS-CoV-2, a newly identified coronavirus, has continued to escalate. How should we as a church respond, and how bad is it now ?
As of March 13, 2020:
The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, or global epidemic, posing serious health risks. Of 132,758 confirmed cases worldwide, 7,499 were new in the previous 24 hours; of 4,955 deaths, 342 were new. This is roughly a 60% increase in cases and a 77% increase in deaths since my blog post on this topic 2 weeks ago. A Harvard epidemiologist estimates that 40% to 70% of the world population will become infected by late 2020, although most will have mild disease.
Italy, which after China has suffered the worst toll from COVID-19, is under lockdown. Schools and business are closed; gatherings and religious services are canceled; cafes and restaurants shut down after 6PM; and travel even within the country is prohibited except for strict work-related or health-related reasons. Despite these draconian measures, the total number of cases increased from 15,113 to 17,660 in the past 24 hours, and the number of deaths increased by 250 to 1,266.
President Trump has declared a state of emergency in the United States, placing a 30-day ban on most travel to the US from the EU, which WHO has now declared the epicenter of the pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,678 US cases (414 new) in 46 states (4 new) and 41 deaths (5 new).
CDC infectious disease director Anthony Fauci has predicted that it will get worse before it gets better; that disruptions to daily life in the US may last up to 8 weeks or more; and has urged anyone over 60 years of age not to get on a cruise ship or long flight.
Army and Air National Guard components have been activated by the governors of Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island and Washington, and may be joined today by guardsmen in California and Maryland, to support operations to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities to use for isolation housing, compiling state medical supply inventories, and helping the states with logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, transportation of medical staff, call center support, and meal delivery.
Following suit with several other states, Gov. Ron deSantis has declared a state of emergency for Florida, has discouraged gatherings of more than 250 people, has recommended screening those who attend smaller gatherings, and has prohibited people who are likely to transmit the virus from visiting nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Florida’s Surgeon General Scott Rivkees stated that in older populations, mortality from COVID-19 is 20 to 40 times higher than from flu. The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group has declared a state of emergency.
Cancellations and closings in the US include NFL, NHL and National Baseball League events; cruise travel on Viking, Princess and Disney lines; and many schools, universities, businesses, Broadway theatres, political rallies, and public gatherings or events. In response to the travel ban and travel alerts, airlines have cut back on many flights. The financial repercussions have been global and severe.
Cancellations and temporary closings in Florida, where we live, include all public schools, University of Florida, Florida State, University of Tampa, USF, Disney World, Universal Studios, Straz Center, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Mahaffey Theater, and Amalie Arena. Some local churches have cancelled in-person services for the coming week, including Idlewild Baptist Church, Mission Hills, and Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran.
How does COVID-19 spread?
SARS-CoV-2 virus is thought to spread mostly from person-to-person, between people who are within about 6 feet from one another, through respiratory droplets released from the cough or sneeze of an infected person. The virus can spread from people who are infected even before they know they are ill and even after they no longer have symptoms.
The virus can survive on surfaces such as wood, metal and plastic for up to several days, but can be killed in 1 minute by applying bleach or alcohol-based disinfectants. Virus particles can be found in stool as well as respiratory secretions from people with COVID-19, and can survive on toilet and bathroom surfaces. Most deaths and severe infections have been in people older than 60 years, especially those with underlying disease such as diabetes, heart or lung disease, or cancer.
How can we keep our church safe?
· Thorough cleaning and disinfecting of commonly handled surfaces, and providing hand sanitizer and soap dispensers, tissues, and paper towels.
· Social distancing by keeping people 6 feet apart, and not shaking hands, kissing or hugging.
· Staying home from church, and from going anywhere, if you or someone living with you is ill or has any fever, coughing, sneezing, or shortness of breath.
· Frequent hand washing by staff, workers and congregation, for at least 20 seconds, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, before entering church, and after using the toilet, eating, drinking, or touching surfaces.
· Covering cough or sneeze with a tissue, or the arm if a tissue is unavailable.
· Avoid touching your face, nose, mouth, and eyes, especially with unwashed hands.
· Disposing used tissues and paper towels in covered trashcans with liners and foot pedals.
· Using single-serve, combined wafer/juice cups for communion, dispensed by elders wearing disposable gloves.
How can we keep ourselves safe?
· Follow all the above precautions.
· Avoid crowds, such as in airplanes, airports, travel terminals, restaurants, superstores, theme parks, large events, or anywhere you are likely to encounter many people in close quarters, particularly when you don’t know their travel or medical history. Older people need to do this to avoid getting sick, and younger people need to do this to help keep older people healthy.
· Keep informed by following updates on official CDC and WHO websites, and not being misled by fake news.
· Keep nonperishable food, water and personal care supplies on hand, but don’t panic shop or hoard more than you and your family need.
· If you get sick, call your doctor for guidance before going in person to avoid spreading the infection to others or catching other infections. Stay home, but if you must go out, wear a face mask to protect others.
What does Scripture say about how to respond to this and other danger?
Remain vigilant to protect ourselves, our church and our global community from weapons of Satan, who wants to devour us like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). The wise and prudent will recognize danger and take appropriate precautions, but the foolish will ignore danger and suffer the consequences (Proverbs 22:3; 27:12). God will give wisdom freely to all who ask Him for it (James 1:5-6).
Remember that Christ is the Great Physician, Who is risen with healing in His wings (Matthew 9:12; Malachi 4:2). His power is absolute and infinite, far exceeding that of Satan; He has placed a hedge of protection around His children (Job 1:10); and nothing “bad” can happen to a believer unless God allows it for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory (Genesis 50:20). No weapon formed against us can prosper (Isaiah 54:17).
Pray for all affected by respiratory infections, and for the epidemic to be contained and reversed, bearing one another’s burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Fear not, which is a command that appears in Scripture 365 times, one for each day of the year! God’s perfect love can cast out all our fear, if we let go of our burdens at the foot of His cross and leave them there (1 John 4:16-18). We should not be anxious or panicked about anything, but make our requests known to God in prayer and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). God is not the author of confusion, but of peace that passes all understanding (1 Corinthians 14:33; Philippians 4:7).
Remember that Jesus Christ predicted an increase in devastating diseases as the time for His return draws nearer, along with other signs of the times (Matthew 24)., such as wars, rumors of wars, division, Christian persecution, and false teachers, that are rampant today. Although no man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36; 25:13), we know that each passing day brings us one day closer to the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:52). We have the blessed hope (Titus 2:13) of knowing that the afflictions of this world are but temporary and trivial in light of the eternal glory that awaits us (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Pray that God will use this epidemic to bring others closer to Himself, working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called by Him for His specific purpose (Romans 8:28).
Know what you believe and be prepared to explain the Gospel to others who may ask you why a good God would allow innocent people to suffer (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 3:15). Put on the whole armor of God daily (Ephesians 6:11-18), especially the helmet of salvation (Isaiah 59:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8), knowing that we are saved and have eternal life through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Pray that our church will continue to grow and thrive. There is no safer place to be than in the center of God’s will, which includes being in church where we can encourage and support one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).until Christ returns and brings us home!
© 2020 Laurie Collett (Laurie Barclay, M.D.)