On January 6, the Covid Response Team sent the following letter to clergy and congregational leaders.
Greetings to you and your congregations in this New Year and new season of our life together.
Given the rapid rise in COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations, as well as COVID-19 positivity rates across Vermont, the Covid Response Team would like to call your attention to the following points:
- Since we know that the Omicron variant of the Covid virus is much more transmissible than previous variants, all previous COVID-19 guidelines should continue to be followed as strictly as possible. The following are other measures you should consider at this time:
- Be aware that case counts and hospitalizations are high. Your congregation should strongly consider resuming online only worship if you can (or remain online only if that is your current practice).
- For congregations who remain open for in person worship, we recommend speaking with members who are in higher risk groups (over age 75, or with chronic health conditions) to encourage them to worship with you virtually, and to understand that this is a valid form of worship.
- Public health officials recommend upgrading masks as an effective measure against the Omicron variant. If possible, rather than cloth or surgical masks, use N-95, KN-95, or KF-94 masks to be better protected and better protect others from COVID-19 infection. These higher-grade masks are now more widely available in local drug stores, hardware stores, and online. Here is a link for more information on masks: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-need-to-upgrade-ourface-masks-and-where-to-get-them/.
- For anyone who does not have N-95, KN-95, or KF-94 masks available, we suggest using a surgical mask in combination with a cloth mask. In any event, using masks that fit well to the face (over the bridge of the nose, at the cheeks, and under the chin) is essential.
- Social distancing and ventilation remain absolutely essential if there is any in-person indoors activity. While in-person indoors meeting is discouraged at this time, if you must be together in-person indoors, please ensure social distancing and adequate ventilation.
- Most public health officials predict that this current surge will be intense but relatively brief. This is certainly our hope and prayer! Nonetheless, however brief or long-term it turns out to be, please keep yourselves and your congregation members safe and healthy by paying strict attention to these guidelines
- In this season of light as we celebrate Christ’s baptism and our growth in this baptismal faith, remember God is with us throughout the Diocese of Vermont. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the members of the Covid Response Team. Thank you for your patience and your prayers.
The Covid Response Team of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont