COVID-19 Response & Guidelines Update ©


With excellent work by our Conference Communications team under Vance Morton’s leadership, we have posted an update on the Central Texas Conference’s COVID-19 Response, Guidelines and Information section of our conference website. Having recently spent time with my grandchildren (ages 3 to 8), I am especially mindful of the need for churches to take every appropriate action to protect the most vulnerable among us. While the context and situation of each of our more than 300 congregations, campus ministries and new faith communities differ greatly, I continue to strongly urge pastors and lay leadership to work together for the safety and well-being of all. As we’ve done throughout this pandemic, let us together, in prayer and carefully reflection, move forward to a new spring and be guided by faith, not driven by fear.   - Bishop Mike Lowry

The following content and is available at ctcumc.org/coronavirus-covid-19-updates.
 


Texas and the rest of the U.S. has experienced a rapid decline in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations since February 2021. There is a sense of “normalcy” settling in as churches, schools, organizations and public events reopen and return. Still, health experts caution that we are a long way from eradicating COVID and that new mutations of the virus could bring it back, and it might be even stronger. A rise in coronavirus cases across the U.S. is being reported due to the Delta variant and spikes are possible to likely as children/youth return to school and with Friday Night Football season on the near horizon.
 
Bishop Lowry and the Central Texas Cabinet continue to guide clergy and lay leadership to be vigilant in monitoring the situation in their communities and continue to follow all guidance and mandates from local, county, state and federal officials as well as those of health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
 
It is also strongly recommended that churches request those who are not fully vaccinated to continue to mask up when attending services and other church gatherings – especially those indoors. Also, maintaining some social distancing when possible and continuing to have sanitizer and cleaning products readily available are still encouraged.

COVID-19 Info & Updates

July 2021
According to the CDC, coronavirus cases are once again on the rise – primarily among those who are unvaccinated – thanks to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant as the predominant coronavirus strain in all 50 states and much of the rest of the world. According to a recent CDC report cited by NPR, new cases in the U.S. are up by nearly 70 percent in just a week. Hospitalizations are up by nearly 36 percent.
 
In Texas, the positivity rate (the ratio of cases to tests) climbed above 10 percent for the first time since February (11.1 percent as of July 19). Texas Governor Abbott, who confirmed on Tuesday (July 20) that he has no plans to reinstitute mask mandates in the Lone Star State, has previously identified a rate higher than 10 percent as dangerous.
 
CDC Guidance on How to Protect Yourself & Others from COVID-19 (click on the links below to access)
 
Fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors in most settings, according to the CDC. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) is still encouraging everyone to wear masks while inside.
 
The CDC and WHO continue to monitor certain coronavirus mutations and variants that may be more contagious or deadly than the original strain to best determine if transmission of any of the mutations/variants could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as whether current vaccines can provide protection. The U.S. classifies mutations/variants as

So far, the U.S. has not classified any coronavirus variants as “high consequence,” but numerous strains have been labeled as “variants of concern” that need to be followed closely. In particular, the Delta variant has drawn focused attention during the past month due a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in several countries, including the U.S.
What is the Delta Variant?
The Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is now the dominant strain in the U.S. Delta is a strain of the COVID-19 coronavirus that can spread more easily than previous strains, according to the CDC. The strain has mutations on the spike protein that make it easier for it to infect human cells. That means people may be more contagious if they contract the virus and more easily spread it to others. Researchers have said that the Delta variant is about 50 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, which was already 50 percent more contagious than the original coronavirus first identified in China in 2019, according to The Washington Post.
 
The Delta variant is affecting those who were considered low-risk in earlier strains – children, youth/young people, people without underlying medical conditions – and those who have not been vaccinated are particularly at risk. It
 
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 88 percent effective against symptomatic cases of the delta variant and 96 percent effective against hospitalizations, according to a Yale Medicine report. Researchers are still studying the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine against the delta variant but believe it may work similarly to Pfizer.
 
For more info on the Delta Variant please see