Minister’s Message for August, 2021

In early June, I emailed the congregation (members, friends, and others who attend regularly) to ask about your vaccination status, Of the 230 people I emailed, I got 143 responses, some of whom answered for themselves and people not on my email list (so the numbers don’t add up exactly, as you’ll see).

Of the 143 responses I got, I learned of 147 full vaccinations, 2 immunocompromised people, and one person unvaccinated. This is a 98% vaccination rate!

If everyone who did not reply to my email is unvaccinated (which is extremely unlikely), then we are still 64% vaccinated. (If you missed that email, I sent it out on June 5 with the subject line “vaccination survey.” If you haven’t replied, I’d still love to hear from you!)

As a community, Chalice is highly vaccinated. That’s the good news.

The bad news is more complicated.

First and foremost, the increasing spread of the highly transmissible delta variant pushes us back into learning mode. There is much we don’t know yet.

1) It has just recently been reported that “emerging data suggests” that some vaccinated people can pass the virus to unvaccinated people. This is a critically important issue for being around children and immunocompromised people. This is of paramount importance to us at Chalice as a multigenerational community.

2) The rate of breakthrough illness for vaccinated people is very low, but it may be higher with the delta variant. Time will tell. (Also keep in mind that with 200 million people vaccinated, a “very low” rate of breakthrough illness still means that thousands of people will be ill.)

3) We don’t know the risk for vaccinated people to have a breakthrough illness that results in long COVID.

4) Even without delta, we are still learning how long the vaccines work. There is already talk of booster shots for some people.

These unknowns come at a time when public restrictions have mostly disappeared. The only real public health guideline we have had the past six weeks in California is that unvaccinated people have been requested to mask indoors. It appears that this guideline was difficult to follow. Even before the delta variant arrived in San Diego, the rate of coronavirus cases shot back up after June 15, when requirements to mask and distance in public places went away.

Just this morning (July 27), the CDC revised their masking recommendations, and in response, the County of San Diego has issued a statement recommending “the universal wearing of masks by both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings.”

To be clear about what is happening: if we were still using the State’s color-coded “tier” system that went away on June 15, San Diego County would currently be in the most-restrictive purple tier. Just a few days ago, the County reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since February 5.

The difference between now and last year at this time is that many of us are vaccinated and are at substantially less risk of illness and death than we were previously. It is very safe for vaccinated people to be together without masks. The people who are getting sick and dying are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. This is especially heartbreaking because now, almost every COVID-19 death is preventable.

What does all this mean for us as a community? If we wait to meet in-person until there is no risk of coronavirus for any of us, then we will never meet in-person again. It has been the hardest truth for me to face that there is no way I can keep all of us safe forever, unless we are to stay locked away in our homes forever, which safety comes at the high price of our mental health.

As it stands right now, for us to gather in-person, each of us needs to do our own personal risk assessment of what we are comfortable doing. We need to create together as many choices as we can so we can be together in multiple ways: not only online and not only in-person. And we need to be in good communication with each other about what we need in order to be and feel as safe as we can.

Our highest priorities as a community are to do what we can to keep our children and our immunocompromised congregants as safe as possible while we offer what communal activities we can.

We will have an in-person worship service in Felicita Park on August 15 in order to bless our animals. Masking is required to support the safety of children and immunocompromised people, our most vulnerable congregants. More details about that worship will be communicated via email.

We continue to work toward being able to worship in-person (and online) sometime in September.

Take care of yourselves, be careful, and keep on keeping on.

Blessings and love to you,