Dear Church Family,
We are all aware of the news reports of the growing global spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. While there is a lot that we still don’t know, we do know that this virus seems to have originated in Eastern Asia and has been circulating within the continental United States for, at minimum, 6 to 8 weeks. Until recently, reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States have been rare, as testing was restricted to those who had either been in Eastern Asia, specifically China, or in direct contact with someone who had been. However, as testing becomes more widespread, we are beginning to see an increased number of patients diagnosed with the virus across the United States.
At the time of writing this letter, there are a total of 41 presumptive positive cases of the virus in Massachusetts, and that number is likely to rise as testing becomes more widely available and more people report symptoms to their physicians.
We are aware that we are living in the midst of a great deal of uncertainty. We do not yet fully know what this virus is doing, how far spread it already is, or even how fatal it truly is (early data from China showed an alarming 3% mortality rate, but recent global numbers show that trending sharply downwards to <1%). Complicating all of this is the fact that we are currently facing a higher than normal activity influenza season with both Influenza A and B hitting our community.
What does this mean for us as a church community?
At this time, worship and programming will continue as normal at Burlington Presbyterian Church. An emergency response team is preparing a plan for how we will care for our members, stay in communication, and respond to needs in the surrounding community should a wider outbreak be declared in our area. We will pay close attention to the public health guidelines of the Town of Burlington, Middlesex County, and the Massachusetts Dept of Public Health (MDPH). The risk to the general public in Massachusetts at this time remains low, according to the MDPH website.
It is a good reminder to follow health and safety precautions, as we would during any cold and flu season. Should you be feeling unwell, especially with signs of a respiratory infection, we encourage you to stay home, and contact your doctor. If you have responsibilities at church that day, please contact Pastor Trina and leave a message on the church voice mail so that we can find a substitute for you. It is recommended that people in vulnerable populations, such as those over the age of 75 or who have other health conditions that may compromise your immune system, also remain home to protect
themselves. Please keep the church office informed, too, so that we can pray for and care for you. If you are feeling well, as you come to worship, you will find hand sanitizer in the narthex, and in the fellowship hall and classrooms. Best practice is to wash your hands, as hand sanitizer is not 100% effective against viruses, but sanitizing your hands can help reduce the risk of spreading germs to others.
We encourage alternative forms of greeting one another, in place of handshakes or hugs for the time being. Some of these ideas include a friendly wave, or “elbow bumps”, and using gestures such as peace signs, a bow or nod with hands over your heart.
As time goes on, we may introduce new practices for other elements of worship like communion and collection of the offering to reduce transmission risks. We will also begin to post sermons to our website starting with this Sunday’s sermon. If you have knowledge about livestreaming and podcasts, please contact the church and let us know! Should it become necessary to cancel services or programming based on the recommendation of our local health officials, we will notify you via email, on the church website, and by posting to our social media accounts.
In addition, we continue to encourage best flu-season practices to protect your health and that of others. Wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds with soap and water), cough and sneeze into your elbow, avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes, and nose, take your vitamins, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and if you have not yet gotten a flu shot, please do so at this time. Stay informed with accurate information about what is going on, such as from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019- covid-19 Updates are posted daily.
Above all else
Let us remember to approach this season with caution, but without fear. Let us remember to be gracious and loving, caring for our siblings and our neighbors. Let us remember to be gentle with ourselves and with each other. Let us not give in to terror or panic, but instead let us live, love, and serve as Christ has called us.
Grace and Peace,