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  • March 26, 2021

Rector's Update: Safely Returning to St. James'

To the Beloved of St. James,

I asked Lucy Jones to share her thoughts with us about returning to the church at this time (see below). I am grateful for her thoughts and pass them along to you for your thoughtful consideration.

Blessings as we move closer to Holy Week,

Rev. Anne


 

We can start to see the beginning of the end. We have been able to return to the patio for church services and re-entering our beautiful sanctuary will be next. Rev. Anne asked me to share with you how I see our path to safe re-opening.

First, a few reminders of what we know about the virus.

  1. Nothing in life is perfectly safe. We are taking actions to reduce risk.
  2. We now know that transmission is primarily through breathing in air breathed out be an infected person. The aerosols carrying the virus are small enough to linger for a long time in stagnant air. This is why being outside is so much safer – natural ventilation works. The only known cases of outdoors transmission happened with long conversations in close proximity.
  3. Moving indoors increases the risk and will only be done when community transmission is at a lower level. The Day School has purchased air purifiers and those will be used in the church when we return, which adds a significant margin of safety, by removing any virus in the air more quickly.
  4. Vaccinations are 100% effective at stopping hospitalizations. With more than 100 million people vaccinated worldwide, we know of NO hospitalizations in that population.
  5. We do not yet know that a vaccinated person can never transmit the virus. However, the significant drop in illness among vaccinated groups (medical workers and nursing homes) in the last month at least shows us that such transmission is unlikely.
  6. The rate of cases in Los Angeles County has dropped by more than ten times since the peak in January.

So given all this, I am completely comfortable with St. James’ outdoors services with the space between people and the care we take to keep the distance between them. I do not think that an infected person in that setting would infect anyone else. I am also comfortable with singing with masks. A study has shown that singing with a mask releases the same aerosols as speaking without a mask. Most of the choir members are vaccinated and that number continues to rise.

The rate of cases going down means that the risk of every activity goes down because it is less likely an infected person will be there. When we first have indoor services, we will ask only vaccinated people to attend. You might still transmit the virus but if everyone is vaccinated, there will be no one to catch it. I am comfortable attending such services as long as we continue to mask.

But please do not be offended if I decline to shake hands or hug at the peace. We can be together without the physical touch and if only for emotional reasons, I think it will be a while before I am comfortable touching others again. But I am looking forward to seeing everyone again!

Best,
Lucy Jones