Dear People of God in the Diocese of Vermont:
In light of the recent rise in coronavirus cases in Vermont associated with the highly transmissible Delta variant, the Restart Team now recommends that parishes require face masks and social distancing indoors for all persons and groups using church buildings. This recommendation is consistent with the advice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that face masks be worn indoors by both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in areas of substantial transmission. As of today, every Episcopal church in Vermont but one is located in a substantial or high transmission area, and so the Restart Team asks all congregations to follow this standard.
As the science of the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved we have learned that the Delta variant is nearly twice as contagious as the original variant and that fully vaccinated people can acquire and transmit this virus even when they are asymptomatic.
Care should be taken for the health and safety of our church communities, including members, staff, clergy and visitors. Clergy, wardens, and vestries may wish to establish further public health safeguards, in addition to requiring masks, social distancing, and ventilation, as they deem wise for their situation. Windows should be opened and fans run, and/or air filtration used to enhance ventilation. Worshipping outdoors, if possible, remains the safest option. Working together in these ways, we can help assure that our churches and schools remain open.
We know that entering into another season of uncertainty and rising infection rates is painful, and that reintroducing precautionary measures in church may seems like a step back in our progress. We can take comfort in knowing we have made it this far in the pandemic as a diocesan household doing everything we can to prevent harm to ourselves and others.
We also know that we have been at this for 17 months now, and it is safe to say that all of us are tired of the pandemic. We ask that you be gentle with one another, remembering that the decisions made by clergy, wardens and vestries on behalf of each congregation are made with everyone’s safety in mind.
We know that our continuing challenge, and our call as Christians, is to keep ourselves and others healthy in all the ways we can. The CDC has repeatedly emphasized vaccination, mask wearing, social distancing, and ventilation as primary ways to do this. The Restart Team asks for your continuing perseverance and faithfulness as we all seek to provide for God’s people through this season of the church’s life.
Bishop Shannon and The Restart Team of the Diocese of Vermont