News from the Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
SECOND (FIFTH?) VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST?
This summer, we have had an unwanted guest. Like that coffee commercial where Santa never goes home but enjoys bottomless cups of coffee by the pool, COVID-19 made another surge through the summer months. From mid-July until now we have seen infection numbers climb to levels exceeding this past January’s post-holidays surge. That is with around half of Florida residents being fully vaccinated, unlike in January.
The delta variant is particularly contagious, with breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated, such as our Presbytery moderator, Ferdi Brits. But it is the unvaccinated population that by far leads the way in numbers of infections, hospitalizations, and unfortunately, deaths.
I’m sure we all have grown weary of the routine that we have followed over the past 18+ months. Some are even tired of merely hearing the word “COVID”.” It seemed in the early summer that we were getting beyond the pandemic and returning to many of the familiar ways in which we “do church.” That is what makes the current situation doubly hard, like a punch in the gut. A number of our congregations have had persons contract COVID, most often not at the church itself, but others have been exposed which has caused congregations to scale back in-person activities until the current surge begins to wane.
Central Florida Presbytery was planning to hold an in-person meeting on September 14 at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. That was the plan when Council met in May. But by the time of the August Council meeting, it was apparent that bringing up to 150 people to a hot spot like Orlando and having them in close contact for up to six hours was not a good idea. We changed course and will have our sixth consecutive virtual presbytery stated meeting.
Perhaps you have been reading, as I have, some of the reports from university researchers at UCF and USF, concerning when they believe the delta variant will peak in our area, and when we might reach herd immunity. Herd immunity is when enough people have either been vaccinated or have had COVID that the pool of people who could contract the virus is too small, and the virus burns itself out. Some researchers have given the opinion that Florida may reach herd immunity this month (September), albeit the hard way, with numbers of new infections continuing to set daily records for a time.
I am not an expert in such things. But I have found these statistics. Out of 21.5 million Floridians, 10.2 million are fully vaccinated. Another 6.4 million have had one dose of the vaccine. Over 3.2 million residents have had COVID, but many of them could also have received one or both doses of the vaccines, so the number of the pool of those who could get COVID is likely greater than 1.5 million, but less than 4.5 million (?). Maybe we are nearing a tipping point where herd immunity kicks in.
In the meantime, we need to continue to exercise prudent caution and continue the steps we know too well now to protect ourselves and one another from COVID. There is a lambda variant of the virus that originated in Peru and has caused many problems in places like Chile and Argentina. The lambda variant is even more virulent, and vaccines possibly less effective, than with the delta variant. This underscores the need to continue safe practices and do our part to minimize the possibility for the virus to spread and to mutate into forms that are only going to cause us difficulty unless we do what we need to do now.
Receiving the vaccines, continuing to wear masks in public places, and other aspects of social distancing have become touchy subjects for many. And still, over a year-and-a-half into this, we still do not know what we don’t know about COVID, as it is sometimes expressed. So, we err on the side of caution, and do what we must to protect the more vulnerable persons in our midst, and continue to learn our version of what Scripture means when it talks about perseverance.
Blessings to all as we move into the Fall season, with its stewardship focus, budget planning for 2022, and the holidays, which are just around the corner.
Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams