As a community, you know the power of being together and of supporting one another. When world events are concerning or even frightening,we rely on our spiritual traditions for solace and to make meaning. This is the case for the outbreak of COVID-19, a new version of a respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. This disease is most dangerous for elders and for those with compromised lungs or immune systems. The transmission patterns of COVID-19 in other countries suggest that we should begin preparing for a few different scenarios. The current situation summary from the CDC is here. It seems that now is a good time for planning and caution, but not panic.
At UUCA, our response will be coordinated by Board President Christian Harden and myself. We are consulting with our administrative staff, as well as with Sunday Support Greeters and volunteers, the building managers at 1190 W. Druid Hills Drive, and staff leaders for Religious Education and Music. We will be guided by the CDC, the Georgia Department of Health, and UUCA policies and procedures as we continue to strategize. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and so we will all need to be attentive, flexible, and above all kind as we hold one another’s spirits in strength and love during this season of uncertainty.
When we sing the hymn, “Gathered Here,” we are reminded that we are “one strong body.” As a congregation, it is up to each one of us to create and maintain a climate that supports the well-being of everyone in the congregation. Scientific American posted a helpful article about why preparing for an outbreak and practicing healthy habits to prevent disease transmission are some of the most pro-social, altruistic things you can do. With that in mind, In this current phase of preparation and prevention, here are a few things we can do to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and to protect one another to the fullest extent possible:
- Stay home if you are sick. Do not go to work, school, or church if you are sick or if a family member is sick. Even if you feel that you can rally and try to be productive, consider our neighbors with vulnerable immune systems who may be less able to cope with the illness that you may be carrying. If your committee would like to try meeting on-line using our Zoom web conferencing software, please contact Nicole Pressley, Communications Director for login information. The practice of staying home while sick also applies to staff. I am personally re-committing to the practice of keeping my germs to myself. All of us will need to be flexible about how certain things get done or which things we let go of in order to keep everyone safe.
- Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you become sick, in quarantine, or are otherwise struggling. Even if we are avoiding face-to-face meetings, we can stave off loneliness by other means. Connect by phone and email if you are feeling isolated.
- Practice common sense precautions. Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. It has been suggested that you can sing the chorus of OutKasts’s hit song “Ms. Jackson” to ensure 20 seconds of hand washing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Keep separate towels for every member of your household. Cough into your elbow. Clean frequently-used surfaces like telephones and doorknobs. Try a wave, a reverent bow, or an elbow-bump greeting instead of shaking hands or hugging. The good news is that COVID-19 is vulnerable to old-fashioned soap and water. All of the usual precautions we use during flu season are valid for this situation; please see the CDC’s list of healthy habits.
- If you have traveled recently to a country or state that has a high level of outbreak, even if you do not have symptoms, please consider self-quarantining until the danger of infection has passed. We know that people without symptoms can pass the virus to others. As of yesterday, the CDC reported 60 cases in the US across 12 states.
- Let me know if medical bills, missing work due to taking sick days, or other care and prevention practices are causing a financial emergency. We may be able to arrange for a one-time grant from the Minister’s Benevolence Fund to cover something like a medical co-pay, a utility bill, or a portion of a month’s rent. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about a grant. If you are not having a financial emergency and are inspired to make a donation to the MBF, please send a check to UUCA with “Minister’s Benevolence Fund” in the memo line.
- Start making plans with your household about what you will do if you need to care for someone at home, stay at home to avoid infection, or otherwise change your routines. The CDC has a helpful tip sheet about making preparations.
- Concentrate your information gathering on reliable, data-backed sources that offer strategies and are not overwhelmingly driven by advertisers who profit from your anxiety. This podcast and article from the New York Times provide potential starting places. I found this article from Foreign Policy magazine helpful.
UUCA’s leadership team will be monitoring the situation closely. If you need to stay home, please livestream our worship service and mail your pledge check in to UUCA or use our give by text service by texting “UUCA” and the dollar amount you 73256. Click here for visual instructions. We’re also thinking about other modifications we can make to reduce the risk of spreading germs while we’re at church. This Sunday, we will have a couple of bottles of hand sanitizer placed on countertops around the office, some extra tissues, and lysol wipes placed around the Treehouse. Of course we will have both the kitchen sink and the bathrooms well stocked with soap for Sunday morning, and we will modify our hand contact in worship service. If you are handling food, drink or food preparation at UUCA, we ask that you use disposable latex gloves that will be placed in the kitchen.
These are interesting times. Have courage. Take care of yourself and each other. Reach out if you need support. You are not alone, we are all in this together.