This Sunday marks the return to offering an in-person option for our Sunday services. Your Safe Gathering Committee remains cautiously optimistic about the government’s recent loosening of restrictions. At the same time, the committee feels it is prudent to maintain most of the safety measures that can allow everyone to not only feel “welcome” at the Unigogue but also feel they are not having to increase their own personal risk by joining others to worship here.
At this time, the Safe Gathering Committee feel it is not yet time for our UFP community to eliminate the POV checks, the covid screening or the physical distancing and attendance limitations. We may be “allowed to do so,” but perhaps we are not compelled to do so, at the very least for the next little while. As always, we welcome feedback from any members or friends and we are more than willing to share our resources with anyone looking for more information.
Recall that as circumstances developed, both provincially and locally, related to the omicron variant a few months ago, our Safe Gathering Committee monitored public health guidance and a decision was made to move back to online only services just before Christmas. Similarly, the committee continues to monitor the science, the public health guidance and the local impacts of the pandemic. Although it might seem like the logical time to return to in-person services from a political perspective, it seems prudent to maintain all of our previous precautions until we see what unfolds in the coming month as restrictions are lifted and precautions and health measures are less and less recommended.
Your Safe Gathering Committee supports the ongoing value of protecting the most vulnerable in our society, our community and our congregation; the elderly, those who are immunocompromised and children under the age of 5 who are still not eligible for vaccination. Nothing has changed with our building’s ventilation or filtration system, while, at the same time, the next variant, the BA.2, is being carefully watched and already deemed more transmissible than Omicron. Research is ongoing that looks at the severity of the disease as the virus mutates as well as whether those who have been infected with Omicron are indeed immune to the next variant or not and what the effects are on our health of contracting the virus more than once. It is truly encouraging that fewer people are hospitalized and dying as our vaccination rates increase, but at the same time the effects of long covid on individuals and our future health systems continues to be studied.
We still have a responsibility to do our part in limiting the case numbers in our community in order to decrease the indirect overwhelm in our own local healthcare system. Our local hospital, at the time of writing this, has only 7 patients known to have Covid and no longer has any outbreaks, however, one need only engage in a conversation with a healthcare professional working at the hospital to recognize that there is still a dramatic negative effect of the pandemic at play. It seems this is related to the ongoing daily staff shortages (often related to having covid or having been exposed to someone with covid) as well as the compounding effects of the isolation required for patients who may have been exposed to someone with covid. Indeed, a congregation member, who works on one of the floors at PRHC, expressed that on one day last week they were short 4 nurses, on one floor.
On a more positive note, at our next meeting, the committee will be ensuring we have all protocols in place to return to small group gatherings in the building. What a wonderful next step!
Cautiously optimistic… Your Safe Gathering Committee