News from the Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
We have welcomed in the New Year, 2023. Like the previous two years, I keep hoping the new year will finally bring a conclusion to the “20-teens,” as in 2019, as in COVID-19. But, that hasn’t happened, yet.
Last year, as 2022 dawned, we were in the upswing of the original omicron variant, which dwarfed all of the waves that came before it. Since then, we have had smaller waves of various subvariants of omicron. In Florida, we are still seeing an average of 3,000-3,500 new COVID infections per day. These numbers may be soft, as many people self-test and if they have mild symptoms, may never come in contact with the medical system that might record that data. When I had COVID back in June 2022, it was confirmed by an at-home test. Unless my doctor reported it when I contacted her for anti-viral medication, my illness would not be in the numbers reported.
As 2023 dawns, a new subvariant of omicron is causing concern, XBB 1.5. About a month ago, this subvariant accounted for less that one percent of all infections in the United States. As 2023 began, XBB 1.5 accounts for 41% of new infections nationwide, but 75% of new infections in the northeast. Most infectious disease experts anticipate that we will have another post-holiday surge this month.
While the XBB 1.5 subvariant appears to be highly contagious and resistant to some of the vaccines earlier available, it does not appear to be as dangerous (at this point) as in previous waves. Of course, people with pre-existing conditions should consider whether they need to alter current patterns of behavior given this current possibility.
I know that most of us are past being weary with COVID, only made worse by the challenges we have faced with two hurricanes this past Fall, inflation, and all of the rest of the negatives that drain the joy of life. However, we need to continue to be vigilant and pay attention to what is happening around us, and respond accordingly. I am not saying we should go back to where we were in the spring and summer of 2020. I am simply saying we need to be alert, nimble, and smart in our approach to worship, meetings, and other events. Such issues have been and remain session concerns. If you need presbytery’s support and counsel, please ask.
I have visited quite a few congregations over the second half of 2022, including many that I have not been able to visit for a while. Most continue to worship with subtle ways of providing for some distance between worshipers, such as not passing the offering plates or still using the prepackaged communion elements. (I had “reverse communion” recently as I could not peel the foil off the bread until after we had already moved on to the cup!) Consideration might be given to encouraging a bit more separation in seating over the next few weeks until we see where things are headed.
May you have a blessed 2023, as we continue to hold forth the good news of Jesus Christ!
Executive Presbyter / Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams