Covid News for September

Posted By vermonthills on Sep 2, 2021 | 0 comments

Happy September everyone!  What a wild and weird time for all of us as kids return to school and churches (like ours) plan to move from outdoor worship gatherings to indoor worship.

We are also dreaming of children’s ministry options and launching a middle-school group later this fall.

I thought it would be good for you to see the kind of updates that we receive from our conference and denomination. They are doing a great job at providing resources for us and helping us to make difficult decisions.

Check out the email below (pasted here) and let us know your thoughts or concerns. We love you and are trying to do the best for everybody under our care. Thank you for the grace and for the patience as we all try to navigate this challenging season together.


Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021

GNW COVID-19 risk data – as of Aug. 30, 2021

After many months of providing data analysis of COVID-19 risk for the GNW Area Cabinet and COVID-19 Response Team, Becky Platt is sharing some of her insights here in this space for a broader audience of United Methodist leaders. Just joining? Read her introduction here.


There are real signs of promise, not just a flattening or bottoming out of a curve. For the last two weeks, I have been talking about signs that the worst infection rates were passing and this week, there’s hard evidence.  Now, 136 of our sites have infection rates less than 1, up from only 64 last week. New cases are still occurring at an alarming rate, but they aren’t coming at such a rapid pace in these places. Overall, the risk across the region still worsened somewhat, and that’s to be expected. Lowered infection rates are the first step to getting the case rates and risk down. We lost our last “green” site and the number of sites in the “maroon” or severe risk category grew, but it didn’t explode, which was my fear. Only six sites moved to “maroon” this week, against last week’s 41.

What worries me the most right now is the state of our hospitals and ICUs. We are going into one of the worst weekends of the year for trauma events and there is no room for those patients in our hospitals. I’ve been hearing reports of hospital patients being denied transfers and, instead, airlifts to far away places. On a statewide basis,  Alaska is  88 percent full, Idaho is 84 percent, Oregon is 79 percent and Washington is 81 percent.

I’m grateful to all of you out there doing the work to try and turn the tide on this devastating virus.

Blessing on all you do this week,

Becky Platt, on behalf of the GNW COVID-19 Response Team
Catch the state-to-state pie chart comparisons here.

New recommendations from the GNW COVID-19 Response Team for ministries with children

The Greater Northwest Area’s COVID-19 Response Team strongly recommends that all congregations and ministry settings evaluate their ability to offer safer options for ministries with children and implement several prevention strategies to reduce transmission of COVID-19. As the summer comes to an end many ministries are beginning their fall programming, some have asked for guidance as they consider how to offer safer ministries with children. With no vaccine available yet for children under 12 years old, and as part of our commitment as United Methodists to doing no harm, the following are offered to ministry settings.

Read the recommendations by visiting the GNW COVID-19 resource page.

Question: What precautions should we be taking for our Christian education programs and preschools in our local church settings?

Example: Safety precautions taken by GNW camp & retreat sites leads to successful summer season

For many reasons it was a successful summer season for Camp and Retreat Ministries (CRM) of the Oregon-Idaho Conference and Pacific Northwest Conference with 10 camp and retreat sites fully operational and offering enriching experiences for everyone from 3 to 83 years old.

Oregon-Idaho CRM Executive Director Todd Bartlett counts it a success for one other reason: no cases of COVID-19 have been reported, even with overnight camps operational all summer long. A number of risk mitigation factors were put in place to make this happen, with agreement among all of the campers and non-UMC facilitated camps as well, to the safety precautions.

“We did as much outside as we possibly could,” Bartlett said.

That meant breakfast at Suttle Lake Camp in 40 degree weather or scrambling to find extra dining space at Camp Magruder when the rain started along the Oregon coast.

It also meant campers masked whenever they were inside buildings. Cabins with bunk beds were re-arranged to accommodate physical distancing. When they were outside, campers stayed with their same cohort throughout the week and physically distanced themselves when in outdoor spaces as well. All of the camps offered health screenings – including temperature checks – each morning as well, Bartlett said.

The PNW Camps similarly had much success this season, reports CRM Executive Director Alan Rogstad. Each of the four PNW Camps offered summer camping with similar precautions to their ministry partners to the south.

Read more about the practices that made camps successful on our GNW News site.

In The News

*The following stories are being shared by the GNW COVID-19 Response Team to highlight the challenges our communities face when dealing with a seemingly-unending pandemic. These stories might also inspire those of us, as followers of Jesus committed to doing no harm, to work more creatively and adapt our ministry settings to help bring an end to this crisis.
With only 4 ICU beds left statewide amid COVID-19 surge, Idaho governor calls in National Guard: “Please choose to receive the vaccine now to support your fellow Idahoans who need you,” said Governor Brad Little in a press conference on Tuesday. The governor stopped short of mandating masks or vaccines, ordering any closures, or banning large gatherings. Read/watch more from KTVB news in Boise.

Unvaccinated, unmasked teacher infected more than half of students in class with Covid-19, CDC reports: An unvaccinated elementary school teacher who took off their mask to read to students ended up infecting more than half of them last May — and they went on to infect other students, family members and community members, California public health officials reported Friday. It’s a prime example of how easy it is to undermine efforts to protect children too young to be vaccinated, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. Read more of this story from CNN.

This is how to prevent another 100,000 Covid deaths by December, Fauci says: “What is going on now is both entirely predictable, but entirely preventable,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday, saying the outcome of the model is possible. “We know we have the wherewithal with vaccines to turn this around.” Read more of this story from CNN.

Vaccinated Anchorage teachers get more leave to quarantine: ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Fully vaccinated employees in Alaska’s largest school district will receive up to 10 extra days of paid time off if they test positive for COVID-19, but can’t work from home while quarantining, according to a recent memo. However, Anchorage School District employees who are not fully vaccinated are not eligible for the leave. Read more of this AP story in the Anchorage Daily News.

Reimagining Thoughts

This week, the COVID-19 Response Team chose to share words written by Rev. Heather Riggs from Oak Grove UMC in Portland as a spiritual reflection about grief in the midst of this pandemic and all of the other crises happening. We know, as clergy and people of faith, you might be grieving as well. May Heather’s words bring you comfort …

‘Grief is an emotion we feel with a soft heart’

Today I’m feeling the grief.
For the beloved people who have died in this past year.
For the loss of the hope for some kind of return to normal that was snatched away by the Delta variant.
For the unnecessary suffering brought on by anti-science misinformation.
For how much my clergy and non-profit leader friends are hurting …

Read more of Heather’s lament on the GNW Area News site.

Share this newsletter with your COVID-19 Team!

Help us to grow this list by inviting members of your local ministry’s reopening team to subscribe. The GNW COVID-19 Response Team is planning to use this email list to regularly share updates and important COVID-19 related news and resources. Share the link below for others to subscribe. They will need to select “GNW COVID-19 Response Team Update” from the subscription list.

GNW COVID-19 Resources

The following resources are offered to support leaders as they make critical decisions, shaped by their faith, in a situation that is quickly changing. We believe it essential that such decisions are made with the latest, fact-based information available to us.

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The Greater Northwest Episcopal Area provides leadership for the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest Conferences of The United Methodist Church. |
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