These changes in CDC recommendations, and in mine to you, are the result of what we are learning about the Delta variant of the virus, which is clearly more transmissible than previous variants. There is also evidence that vaccinated people can contract and spread the Delta variant, whether they have symptoms or not. Wearing masks protects the wearer as it protects others. This virus is deadly. People continue to die from it every day. Please, it is important that we live our faith in concrete action by wearing masks. It is a small sacrifice for the sake of life. – Bishop Goff, Diocese of Virginia
By my count on the CDC Zone Map, all but three of our congregations are in the highest orange or red zones for infection rates. – Bishop Thom, Diocese of Idaho
Following the CDC’s latest recommendations yesterday, two dioceses — Idaho and Virginia — immediately issued revised guidance to parishes. In an email to clergy last week, the Diocese of Arkansas announced a tighter policy in light of a resurgence of the virus in that state. In an email, Arkansas’s Bishop Benefield said “I will have to decide in the next week or so if I recommend further restrictions.”
Please let Episcopal Café know if other dioceses are reevaluated their Covid guidance so that we can get the word out.
Diocese of Arkansas memo to clergy (via email)
July 21, 2021
In their latest forecast report, released Tuesday, July 20, researchers with the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health of the UAMS health system stated that “The COVID-19 pandemic in Arkansas radically changed in the last two weeks….our research suggests Arkansas is at the beginning of an exponential surge, which, in the long-term, may exceed the December/January surge in terms of cases and hospitalizations….We strongly recommend continued mask wearing in public places and continued physical distancing — even for those who are vaccinated.”
In light of this report, my recommendation is that everyone mask during worship services in our churches. Otherwise, continue to worship as usual, including receiving Holy Communion and singing. When having events or classes in which children are present, everyone should be masked. Given your local circumstances, you can decide whether masking during committee meetings, etc., is appropriate. Keep doors and windows open as much as possible.
Diocese of Idaho via email
July 27, 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Active and Retired Idaho Clergy,
With today’s announcement from the Centers for Disease Control about the increases in infections among unvaccinated persons and the breakthrough infections of the Delta mutation of COVID-19, I ask that you consider working with your congregations to return to full mask deployment for all indoor gatherings.
Per the CDC website today:
-only 37% of Idahoans are fully vaccinated
-by my count on the CDC Zone Map, all but three of our congregations are in the highest orange or red zones for infection rates
My main takeaways:
-Vaccinated persons can become infected with the much more virulent Delta COVID strain and be infectious to others before symptoms are noticed.
-The remaining 67% of Idahoans should be helped to see the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccine.
-For the safety of others – our families and our parish communities – please become vaccinated and wear a mask when indoors with people outside of your ‘bubble’.
Three weeks from tomorrow, I request Active Clergy and invite Retired Clergy to join me for a Zoom meeting to review Idaho’s COVID numbers, acknowledge that flu season is around the corner, and consider which directions our diocesan-level COVID-19 precautions might move. ….
In faith, +Brian
The Rt. Rev. Brian Thom, XIII Bishop
July 27, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
As you have likely seen, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its masking recommendations this afternoon in response to growing concerns about the rapid spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19. As of today, the CDC recommends that vaccinated persons wear masks indoors in public places in areas with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission rates. The agency also recommends that local jurisdictions encourage universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools, regardless of vaccination status. The guidance for unvaccinated people remains the same – wear a mask until vaccinated.
Half of the counties in the Diocese of Virginia now have transmission rates that are either high or substantial. You can find the rate in your county here https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.
Because our Christian faith trains and inspires us to care for the most vulnerable, especially the little children who cannot yet be vaccinated, I urge you to:
- Look at the transmission rate tracker to determine the rate in your city or county.
- If that rate is in the substantial or high zone, require masking for all persons, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, during worship, education, formation, outreach, fellowship and any other indoor group gathering.
- Whatever the transmission rate in your area, require masking for all teachers, students, staff, and visitors of any church school, Sunday School, after school programs or other group activity for children.
- Teach about the responsibility of all Christians to care for one another and encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated, unless for medical purposes, to get the vaccine.
- Encourage those who are vulnerable or who have children under the age of 12 or other vulnerable persons at home to wear a mask in every indoor public setting, whether they are vaccinated or not.
In addition, please continue to refrain from sharing the wine of communion from the common cup, whether by drinking or intincting. The best practice for now is to continue the distribution of communion in one kind. Clergy may experiment with other ways of sharing the wine as long as it is done with careful attention to the safety and inclusion of everyone, and with a clear focus on the sacramental theology that the method of communing conveys.
These changes in CDC recommendations, and in mine to you, are the result of what we are learning about the Delta variant of the virus, which is clearly more transmissible than previous variants. There is also evidence that vaccinated people can contract and spread the Delta variant, whether they have symptoms or not. Wearing masks protects the wearer as it protects others. This virus is deadly. People continue to die from it every day. Please, it is important that we live our faith in concrete action by wearing masks. It is a small sacrifice for the sake of life.
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority