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3 of 4 clergy at Augusta church have breakthrough Covid-19

3 of 4 clergy at Augusta church have breakthrough Covid-19

Three of four clergy at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Augusta, GA have Covid-19. Apparently, all three were vaccinated. Although some gatherings will be cancelled, services and Christian formation will take place Sunday, masks required.

The Rev. Ted Clarkson, interim rector, in a letter to the congregation:

August 13, 2021
Dear people of Good Shepherd,

I am confident that you do not need an email from me to tell you that the Delta variant of COVID 19 has changed the landscape. I am aware of at least eight parishioners who have tested positive in the last seven days, including three of our four clergy! Most have had mild to moderate symptoms; none has yet needed hospitalization. This level of community spread has required some rethinking of our plans at Good Shepherd. In particular, it is no longer wise for us to have large events incorporating a meal since it is impossible to remain masked while eating. Accordingly, our plans to restart the breakfast ministry beginning this Sunday and WAGS on Wednesday evening need to be postponed for the time being. We will continue to have church on our regular schedule (8:00, 9:00, 11:15 and 6:00 PM) and Christian formation, but mask[s] will be mandatory at all times in our buildings.

I am thankful that so many of our congregation have been vaccinated. With the vaccine, the chances of serious illness are dramatically reduced, which has allowed us to continue to offer worship in the church, albeit with masks. In the words of Andy Menger as his COVID symptoms abated: “thank God I got the vaccine.” Of course, I certainly understand why some of you may choose to stay home and participate virtually at this time. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to get the vaccine for your own sake and for the sake of all around you.

Your servant in Christ (and the only one of our clergy not infected)

St. Paul’s Episcopal, another Augusta church, is adjusting its precautions as well but contrary to Good Shepherd will not require those vaccinated to wear masks. The senior warden informed the congregation,

Over the past weeks, we have learned that COVID-related hospitalizations are increasing rapidly and that our hospitals are becoming full. Our friends at Good Shepherd Church have three of the four priests positive for COVID, and all of them were previously vaccinated. Good Shepherd has a mask-mandate in place for all services and indoor spaces and is cancelling plans for large gatherings not associated with services. The local health experts believe that the virus variant Delta has not yet peaked in our area. Local schools, both public and private, have initiated mask-requirements.
This weekend, the Vestry will not require those who are vaccinated to wear masks. We do, however, strongly encourage responsible behavior to protect yourself, each other, the clergy, and the staff. Therefore, the Vestry asks the following for each service:
    •  If you have not been fully vaccinated, please wear a clean, well-fitting mask over your mouth and nose. If you have forgotten yours, masks are available in the narthex.
    • Please stagger yourselves in the pews and try not to sit directly behind the person in front of you. ….
    •  Please avoid physical contact as we greet each other in peace.
    • If you or your family members feel unwell, even if you believe that you do not have COVID, please join us from home ….
During the week, please wear a mask while in the church buildings and offices.
Other Episcopal churches have returned to online-only when an outbreak occurs. Grace the Plains:
I have just been notified that a fully vaccinated member of our congregation, who was present at 10:30 a.m. worship last Sunday, July 25, has tested positive for Covid-19 and is exhibiting mild symptoms.
Out of an abundance of caution, we will not hold the 8:00 a.m. service tomorrow. We will hold a 10:30 a.m. service of Morning Prayer, Rite II, by livestream only to YouTube and Facebook. It is my strong recommendation that anyone who was present in person at Grace for 10:30 a.m. worship last Sunday, July 25, be tested for Covid-19.
Fauquier County is, as of this evening, in the red, “High Level of Community Transmission” zone. According to guidance from our Bishop, normally, we would simply require masks in worship tomorrow. But because of a positive Covid test we want to be careful and caring for all, especially those who are immunocompromised, children who have not yet been vaccinated, and other vulnerable members of our community.

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Kathy Wright

I am so sorry this has happened to you. I have had the first covid myself. I will hold your parish close in prayer for quick healing and good outcome. I am a member of the Vestry at Good Shepherd in Hayesville, NC. God bless you al.

Bruce LeLacheur

Dear Augusta Episcopalians – Please learn the lessons of The Good Shepherd and put your masks on vax or not. My parish was mask optional 3 weeks ago before CDC wised up and when one of our unmasked vaccinated flock tested positive a week later we went virtual. Many tests and much gnashing of teeth later, we now mask. Perhaps the vestry St. Paul’s Augusta needs its own outbreak before it learns?

Jim Pratt

Looking south from Canada, I am amazed and shocked that so many churches in the US are open and moving towards a normal pre-pandemic schedule of worship and fellowship, and that stories like this are not uncommon. In my diocese, despite average new cases per million one-tenth the rate of Georgia, the only churches that are open are (1) the parishes with sufficient human and financial resources and physical space to be rigourous in cleaning and strict enforcement of guidelines, (2) a parish whose liturgical tradition does not adapt well to the online world, and (3) parishes which serve a membership primarily lacking in internet access or technological ability to connect online, and for whom social isolation during the pandemic has been a serious problem. Consistently among my wardens and leadership, we have chosen to err on the side of caution, reopening briefly last September and quickly closing again. We feel it is our duty to protect our most vulnerable members, and to protect the community around us. We had scheduled a reopening September 12 (with online/telephone connection for those not comfortable in a large group), but with Delta now circulating in the community and case counts going up, we may pull the plug on that plan for now.

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