Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
As of July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its masking recommendations in response to growing concerns about the rapid spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19. The CDC recommends that vaccinated persons wear masks indoors in public places in areas with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission rates. The agency also recommends that local jurisdictions encourage universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools, regardless of vaccination status. The guidance for unvaccinated people remains the same - wear a mask until vaccinated.
Most of the counties in the Diocese of Virginia now have transmission rates that are either high or substantial.
Because our Christian faith trains and inspires us to care for the most vulnerable, especially the little children who cannot yet be vaccinated, I urge you to:
- Monitor the rate of transmission and the rate of new infections in your city or county.
- If either or both rates are in the "substantial" or "high" zone, require masking for all persons, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, during worship, education, formation, outreach, fellowship and any other indoor group gathering.
- Whatever the rates in your area, require masking for all teachers, students, staff, and visitors of any church school, Sunday School, after school programs or other group activity for children.
- Teach about the responsibility of all Christians to care for one another and encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated, unless for medical purposes, to get the vaccine.
- Encourage those who are vulnerable or who have children under the age of 12 or other vulnerable persons at home to wear a mask in every indoor public setting, whether they are vaccinated or not.
In addition, please continue to refrain from sharing the wine of communion from the common cup, whether by drinking or intincting. The best practice for now is to continue the distribution of communion in one kind. Clergy may experiment with other ways of sharing the wine as long as it is done with careful attention to the safety and inclusion of everyone, and with a clear focus on the sacramental theology that the method of communing conveys.
These changes in CDC recommendations, and in mine to you, are the result of what we are learning about the Delta variant of the virus, which is clearly more transmissible than previous variants. There is also evidence that vaccinated people can contract and spread the Delta variant, whether they have symptoms or not. Wearing masks protects the wearer as it protects others. This virus is deadly. People continue to die from it every day. Please, it is important that we live our faith in concrete action by wearing masks. It is a small sacrifice for the sake of life.
The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority
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