If you’ve read or watched the news, been on social media or even overheard a conversation at the store in the past week, you are likely aware that the secular response to the surge in COVID cases in Texas caused by the Delta variant has shifted from the medical to the extremely political. While the legal actions between state, county and local government agencies makes for excellent headlines, and the too often, too-heated masking and vaccination debates on social media continue to make places like Facebook and Twitter into online battlefields, Bishop Lowry is adamant that we MUST NOT let these things seep into our churches and faith communities. As such, Bishop Lowry’s first act upon returning from his summer renewal leave was to record the following message and share his thoughts and update on the CTCs response to the ongoing pandemic.
In the brief video above, Bishop Lowry highlights…
|The CDC has released updated masking guidelines and now recommends that all persons (including those who are fully vaccinated) should return to wearing masks indoors. Click here for more info and details.|
Texas and the rest of the U.S. experienced a rapid decline in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the first half of 2021, the summer months saw a rise in coronavirus cases across the U.S. due to the highly contagious Delta variant. Official warn that spikes are likely as children/youth return to school and with Friday Night Football season on the near horizon.
Even as they advocate for churches to reopen to some form of in person worship 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).
On Tuesday, July 27, the CDC updated it's masking guidance and now recommends that even those who are vaccinated return to wearing masks in indoor gatherings. This guidance is for areas of the country where COVID-19 cases are surging, which includes most of the counties in the Central Texas Conference. The CTC strongly recommends that churches strongly 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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday (July 27) that it is reversing course on some of its masking guidelines amid a surge of COVID-19 cases related to the delta variant and is recommending face coverings even for vaccinated people in parts of the country where coronavirus is surging, which includes most Central Texas Conference counties. Click here for more details.
The CDC's county-by-county COVID transm ission tracker features a color-coded interactive map that shows different levels of community transmission. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said even vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in areas with substantial or high amounts of community transmission of COVID-19. Substantial transmission means there's been 50-100 cases per 100,000 during a seven-day period and high transmission means an area has seen more than 100 cases per 100,000 during a seven-day period. In the color-coded map, orange reflects substantial community transmission and red indicates high transmission.
Scientists studying Covid-19 say that because people infected with Delta carry higher levels of virus than with earlier strains, the old rules of thumb no longer apply – including the conventional wisdom that it takes 15 minutes of close contact with someone to get infected. Higher levels of virus mean that infected people shed more virus.
Delta also increases the risk of outdoor transmission – especially for unvaccinated people. If you are close to someone and in their respiratory plume – the air released in a breath – it may be possible to become infected. The risks increase outdoors in more crowded settings, such as a concert or a sporting event. Vaccinated persons engaged in outdoor activities – like jogging, biking, hiking – where exposure to an infected person is very brief should be safe without a mask.
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)
Guidance for Communities of Faith (last updated Feb. 19, 2021)
Fully vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in most parts of the country according to the CDC. The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to encourage 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
variant of interest, which may lead to outbreaks but isn’t widespread in the U.S.;
variant of concern, which shows evidence of increased transmission and more severe disease; or
variant of high consequence, which makes vaccines and treatments much less likely to work well.
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.
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.
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