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Category: Health & Wellness / Topics: COVID-19 • Crisis • Current Events, News • Disease • Faith • News • Wellness
Flattening the Curve
by Stu Johnson
Posted: March 14, 2020
Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic…
Living in the Chicago area, we have seen the growing threat from the Coronavirus and responses to it. Our daughter lives in the Seattle area, which was among the first areas in the U.S. to be hit and take measures to contain the virus and prevent or at least slow its spread. Now, we are witnessing a similar pattern in other parts of the country, including Illinois—particularly the Chicago area. In the past few days, things have moved quickly from isolated cancellations and closures to widespread and mandatory closures.
The public school district in our town canceled sporting events, concerts and other activities, but kept schools open...until yesterday when it announced that schools would be closed. Later in the day Illinois Gov. Pritzker announced the closure of all K-12 schools in the state, public and private, for the immediate future, starting Tuesday, March 17.
In what may appear to some as a frightful move to shut down everything, it is important to see that what is being done in "an abundance of caution" is, in the long run, a very good strategy.
The church we attend had already canceled a number of events, but planned to meet for worship tomorrow (March 15), before suspending gathering for worship in following weeks. It was assumed that enough people would not be coming to drop the attendance below the 250 threshold recommended by numerous sources—especially since older adults make up a sizable part of the congregation (many of them living in retirement communities). This service would have avoided as much physical contact as possible: a verbal "passing of the peace" instead of handshakes or elbow bumps, no use of hymn books or passing of the "friendship pad" or offering plates.
A Covid-19 Task Force was formed for the church, including church leadership and one medical doctor. One of its first recommendations was to cancel this worship service—the only event in the week that had not already been canceled. In explaining the action, an email from the pastor explained both the medical and spiritual factors that were part of the decision, including a link to an article I would encourage you to read:
The reason [for canceling this service and other activities] is that preventing the spread of the virus is of utmost importance now. Actions to reduce assembly and transmission pay the biggest dividends the earlier they occur. Many medical experts indicate that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which gives people the disease COVID-19, is now likely present in every community in the United States, even if people with the illness have not yet been diagnosed. It seems likely that large numbers of people in our nation and in our community could become ill in coming weeks, even extremely ill. It would be wonderful if this did not happen, but it seems to be the most likely outcome unless the Lord prevents it.
At this point, the wisest course of action is to "flatten the curve"-that is, reduce the all-at-once demand for hospitals, doctors, and other health resources. If everyone who gets sick needs hospital care at one time, there will not be enough resources to help everyone (as is happening in Italy). However, if we can spread the need and delay the spread of illness so that, even if eventually the same number of people get sick, fewer people have it at the same time, we improve the ability of our health system to treat the sick and can help save lives. (There is a good description of this process in a Forbes article from March 13: ["Why Everything is Closing for Coronavirus: It's Called 'Flattening the Curve'"])
We are mindful of the Scripture's instruction not to give up meeting together and to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25). We are not canceling church this week and subsequent weeks in our own interests, hoping to avoid becoming ill. Instead, we believe the truly loving action is to slow down virus transmission as much as possible as soon as possible.
We prayerfully seek specific ways to show Christ's sacrificial love to those in our congregation and communities. We will be in touch soon with thoughts about what it means to "be the church" at a time of great need and how we can demonstrate Christ to those around us in coming days. . . .
There is a lot of anxiety and fear around the world. When my wife and I did our weekly grocery shopping yesterday, the parking lots of two different stores were full, carts in short supply and some shelves empty (soup, canned goods, paper products). Was this a result of an apocalyptic sense of panic, or evidence of good preparation for two or three weeks of purposeful planning?
The more good information people are exposed to, the more likely it is that we will, indeed, "flatten the curve." See our March 2 article, "Avoiding Coronavirus Infection" for tips from CDC and WHO, with links to their resources.