Dear friends in Christ in the Episcopal churches in Vermont:
As the COVID-19 case counts surge due to the delta variant, we write to you at this critical time to remind each of us of the important need to continue our best health and safety practices.
We are fortunate in Vermont to have the highest vaccination rates in the nation, and especially grateful that over 75% of our youth ages 12-18 are now vaccinated as well. Still, as we have learned, even vaccinated people can transmit the coronavirus to others and get the virus themselves. Because of this, and with the rise in case counts and the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate, we remind you to be very vigilant in following these health protocols:
- Use masks for all (who are over 2 years old) while indoors (and even outdoors if you can) to control the spread of infection.
- Keep social distance, at least six feet, between people, except those in family or household groups.
- Make sure there is good ventilation, using open windows and doors and exhaust fans, aiming to exchange the indoor air at least six times per hour; or rely on air purification (see below).
- Do not hold indoor coffee hour gatherings until the point when the risk of infection is no longer a threat to our children and those with compromised immune systems.
Now is a good time for clergy, wardens and vestry members to meet again with the designated congregational health officers to review protocols and to make sure they are being put into practice. Masking is necessary for all, whether vaccinated or not, and even choir members should keep masks in place during this period of the surge in infections. Of course, for receiving Holy Communion a mask may be removed for a few seconds to receive the sacrament.
Bishop Shannon has resumed a schedule of congregational visitations, and as a courtesy to her and to ensure the safety of all, as part of your preparation for an Episcopal visitation, congregations will now be required to document their plan to keep good ventilation in sanctuaries.
As the cooler weather arrives, you may want to investigate air purification as a strategy to control the spread of COVID-19. We recommend consulting with a qualified ventilation specialist about systems suitable to the needs of your specific space(s). The Diocesan Grants and Loans Committee may be able to provide financial help.
We want to thank you for your continued patience, kindness and forbearance in this difficult time. We ask for God’s strength to help all of us sustain our Christian charity and faith as we take care of each other in Christ’s love as the pandemic continues. Of course, we all hoped the pandemic would be behind us by this point, but the danger still lurks, so we must still ask God’s strength to give us patience and compassion as we continue to live in Christ’s love as the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont.
The members of the team are ready and available to help give guidance and support and to find answers to any questions you have. Please feel free to contact us. We began our work a year and a half ago as the “Restart Team,” but now, with the duration and new phase of the pandemic, we are the “Covid Response Team.” Thank you for your prayer as we respond to this new phase of the pandemic.
The Covid Response Team of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont