“Do no harm” is one of our Wesleyan three simple rules; therefore, it is important as faith leaders that we remain aware of current pandemic threats to our congregations and communities. The COVID-19 Omicron variant is predicted to cause a massive surge in coronavirus infection quickly. Our time to act is now.
The latest data on Omicron indicates that we will experience an extraordinary spike of infections in the next few weeks. Great Britain has usually presaged the United States by two to three weeks throughout the pandemic. In London, Omicron went from a few cases to a vertical acceleration in just over a week. The United Kingdom public health authorities project 600,000 to one million cases per week at wave peak. Currently, the United States is experiencing approximately 135,000 cases per day. It is projected that our number of cases will soar. Omicron is three to five times more infectious than is the Delta variant.
The latest models suggest that Omicron will start spiking nationally between Christmas and New Year’s Day, with peak cases occurring the second week of January. The hopeful news is that after the peak, new cases are predicted to drop quickly; thus, this wave is projected to be intense but short-lived.
We have defenses to help protect our congregations and communities. The first defense is vaccinations. mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are effective against infection from Omicron. With a 3rd dose (booster shot), mRNA vaccines produce 70-80% efficacy against Omicron infection via increased antibody breadth and numbers. The mRNA vaccines will likely reduce disease transmission, as well. So please, encourage your congregation to get vaccinated if they are not and boosted if they have been fully vaccinated. This will save lives.
Here are potential strategies for navigating the upcoming Omicron wave:
- Redouble efforts to get everyone vaccinated and boosted.
- Focus on seniors, the most vulnerable group.
- Transiently eliminate or reduce gatherings that carry higher risk. These risks will increase greatly shortly after Christmas.
- This wave will likely be intense, but shorter; its impact will be better understood with every passing week. These steps will likely be temporary steps back, not a major retrenching.
- Meet outside – if you meet inside, aggressively ventilate and filter.
- Encourage the use of highly effective masks, like the N95 and KF94.
- Consider giving these masks to those at higher risk.
- Ask low-risk congregants to shop for and deliver food and necessities to high-risk community members.
- Practice good hand-washing techniques and do so often.
- Strategic Thinking
- Develop objective criteria that will trigger a return to more normal pre-Omicron practices.
- Follow hospital capacity as a key metric if omicron generates mainly mild cases.
- Follow our NC Conference recommended guidance.
Friends, together, let us do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Let us continue to be a witness of the love of Christ that always loves neighbor as we love God.