Reflections on the season of the pandemic

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It appears that the Covid-19 pandemic is winding down, after a long 16-month season, and steps are being implemented to return to normal throughout the country.

In its wake, the coronavirus infected, thus far, 1,110,000 people in Georgia resulting in 20,660 deaths. In the United States nearly 34,500,000 were afflicted with the virus, causing over 618,000 fatalities. Globally, the virus infected almost 181,000,000, killing nearly 4,000,000 people. It could have been much worse. In some countries it was worse — much worse.

Although the early days and months of the pandemic were confused and the data coming from government sources seemed to change daily, the country, if not the families of the 618,000, the economy and countless businesses, seems to have weathered the storm.

I used four primary sources for my information:

(1) My wife, Cindy, holds four degrees in nursing, including a Ph.D. and is a retired associate dean and professor of the Tanner School of Nursing at the University of West Georgia. I trust her. When she felt the Centers for Disease Control was less than reliable, she sourced Johns Hopkins University for data on the disease.

(2) My brother-in-law, Dr. Jeff Douglas, a physician whose specialty is in infectious diseases. I didn’t speak with him extensively, but my wife did.

(3) Nurses in our church working in the hospitals dealing with Covid-19 patients.

(4) Other staff members of my acquaintance in responsible positions at the local hospitals.

I did not put my trust in the news media, information on social media, or self-appointed experts who had no significant medical training and background.

I also discounted the people swept up in conspiracy theories. This included those who pitched the idea that the government was scheming to take away our rights and freedoms using the disease as cover.

Admittedly, some local and state politicians in some locations did overreact but, with some exceptions, this was beaten back quickly. The other conspiracy said that the so-called “disease” was a ploy that would lead to a vaccine that would become mandatory and that cards would be issued. Those cards would be required to buy and sell and lead to the mark of the beast mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

There were those that said that people who wore masks were “sheep” and that ministers who followed local or state guidelines were cowards and leading their people into fear.

Most of those who made these statements were made by people who do not have the day to day responsibility for the safety of their people. Neither I, nor the clergy I lead, had the luxury of ignoring the genuine dangers of a disease that may (and I stress “may”) have been a Communist Chinese bio-weapon gone wrong and whose effects were unknown for months.

Early on, both my wife and I were vaccinated. Again, to the hoots, jeers , and catcalls of those who were in one of the two or more conspiracy camps. When I traveled to Africa in 1998, I was required to have multiple vaccines. In the Marine Corps, I was vaccinated against a plethora of diseases, including yellow fever and the bubonic plague. One more shot was neither a big deal nor a concern for me. I respect those who chose not to get vaccinated, whatever their reasons: their decision, their risk, their life.

The danger is not entirely passed. There is still the possibility of a recurrence or a “spike” following the return to normal living. There are also mutations out there which may or may not be held at bay by the new vaccines. It’s too early to tell.

And we have not even come close to achieving “herd immunity,” as it is termed. Only 48.6% of Americans have been fully vaccinated with a paltry 10.7% of the world’s population receiving the full vaccine.

With an easily spread disease like measles, it takes 95% of the population being vaccinated before the other 5% are safe. This is the threshold for “herd immunity.” In a deadly pestilence like the plague, there is no such thing as herd immunity. People who are not vaccinated and get the disease are likely to die.

This is why, in decades past, a polio vaccine was required of all children before they would be admitted to school. The goal was the eradication of the polio itself, not “learning to live with it.”

So, the opening up of the nation is a risk that the country deems worth taking. While we still have some safety protocols in place at the church I serve, we, too, are in the process of recovering and hope to be fully “normal” by September.

Thus far, the protocols have worked for us. While several members of our congregation were infected by the coronavirus, there were zero transmissions of the disease as a result of church attendance or church-related activities, and no one died.

We are grateful that, hopefully, this long season is nearing its end. I am grateful that our Rector’s Council was responsive and not merely reactive. I am grateful that, with rare exception, our church members understood what we were doing and appreciated the efforts to keep them as safe as possible. I am grateful that, in many ways, we thrived during this season and not merely survived. We had a great team who worked incredibly hard to continue to minister under duress.

For thing is certain: As one person said, “This, too, shall pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.”

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). The church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]