Dear Friends, Folks have been asking about how we'll know it’s OK to come back together again. A recent NY Times article is helpful. It references an American Enterprise Institute report, recommending that four criteria be met for answering the broader question, “How will we know when to reopen the country?” The recommended four goalposts for recovery are:
HOSPITALS - Area hospitals must be able to treat all patients without resorting to crisis standards of care.
TESTING - The state needs to at least be able to test everyone who has symptoms.
MONITORING - The state is able to conduct monitoring of confirmed cases and their contacts.
REDUCTION - There must be a sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days.
Many of these goals have not yet been met locally or nationally. Northern Utah has so far been less impacted in comparison with many other parts of the country, and local hospitals are not yet overwhelmed. It can be argued that this is because northern Utahns are doing a good job at flattening the curve through social distancing. Deciding to reopen the church will proceed within this larger context, and with consideration of the local/regional picture for Ogden and northern Utah. Regarding the local picture, about ten days ago a Standard Examiner article gave recent data from our area: the Weber-Morgan health district reports a total of 105 confirmed cases of COVID-19; downtown Ogden 10 cases; Harrisville Farr West etc. 16 cases; Roy and Hooper 22; South Ogden 22; rest of the jurisdiction 23 cases. Right now (at the time of this writing), the district reports: 127 cases of COVID-19; 55 recovered cases; two deaths; 4833 tested; nine current hospitalizations. Very important is that “About half of new Weber-Morgan cases have resulted from spread among friends, neighbors and household contacts, not from strangers or travel.” This speaks directly to the ongoing risk of transmission through church and family gatherings, and shows that the disease is present among us. Moving toward re-opening requires us to remain attentive to data and recommendations from a spectrum of national, state and local sources. Acting on this information requires us to maintain social distancing. Uncertainties will always exist, even after information has been gathered and goals have been reached. For example, the risk of re-emergence is real but difficult to quantify, especially without thorough testing and monitoring. Even with testing and monitoring, it seems likely that flare-ups will continue around the world, until an effective vaccine has been developed and distributed. The UUCO trustees and other leaders strive to remain informed, and our decision making will require sound judgement based on information and guidance from trusted sources. All we can do is watch the pandemic unfold, and act with sound judgement as it does. I learn from Dr Fauci of the NIH and other respected health-care professionals that our progress could be quickly undone if we attempt a return to normalcy too soon. Thus, we will continue our social distancing through the end of May. This is because the risks still outweigh the benefits. The message is, “stay safe and stay home." If it gives any consolation, I am told that other UU congregations throughout Utah and southern Idaho are planning to remain closed, some of them through the summer, while staying connected online. Speaking of online connection, Debby and I last Sunday enjoyed our participation in virtual worship, using a Zoom connection with the Foothill Colorado UU congregation and a Cleveland Ohio congregation, including breakout sessions after homilies were given by several ministers. It was doubly interestng to connect with a Cleveland congregation because Debby and I first met in Cleveland while studying and working at Case Western Reserve University. We were married in Cleveland in 1976, and have fond but distant memories of the place. Aside from the general hardship of not being able to attend “live” church, there are implications for UUCO stewardship activities and the Annual Meeting, normally convened in May. To date, our congregation is stable financially, thanks to the generosity and diligence of its members and friends. Please continue to send your pledges and other contributions by mailing checks to the UUCO Treasurer at 705 23rd St, Ogden 84401, or by making electronic contributions according to instructions given on the UUCO website or Breeze platform. Note that about 4 percent is charged by the service providers of electronic contributions, and it would help us if you could add that to your contribution. The Trustees are currently drafting a stewardship letter to encourage your ongoing pledges of financial support, as we do every year. This year, we will pursue an abbreviated Stewardship Campaign by asking your permission for us to assume your pledge of financial support to UUCO will remain the same or increase. You can accept or decline, and your responses will enable us to construct a congregational budget for the coming fiscal year. I thank you in advance for supporting our mission! And how about the Annual Meeting? We are devising a plan for online participation and voting. In doing so, we are grateful to the Unitarian Universalist Association for its guidance, and to our members who will assist in the process. No firm date or process is yet in place, but we’ll be in touch about it. Meanwhile, stay safe and stay home. This too shall pass. Namaste, Bill