Beloved in Christ Jesus:
Thanks for all the ways you continue to extend the love and grace of God made known in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to more and more and more people. Against many odds you are learning, stretching, and serving. I have taken special note of how you have navigated the safe resumption of in-person worship. I know not all of you are doing this but many of you are, without eliminating the online opportunities you have created. Wow.
In light of all of this and the changing data, it is a good time for an update on best practices. Immediately below is the latest from Governor DeWine and the approach of the State of Ohio:
- The state has abandoned the phases for reopening that we used in May.
- The Governor is now using a public health advisory system that looks at 7 indicators – (1) new cases per capita, (2) sustained increase of new cases, (3) proportion of cases not in nursing homes or prisons, (4) sustained increase in emergency room visits, (5) sustained increase in outpatient visits, (6) sustained increase in hospitalizations, and (7) Intensive Care bed occupancy rates.
a. Yellow Alert = 0-1 indicators – Active exposure and spread, follow all public health orders
b. Orange Alert = 2-3 indicators – Increased exposure and spread, exercise high degree of caution, follow all public health orders
c. Red Alert = 4-5 indicators – Very high exposure and spread, limit activities as much as possible, mandatory mask-wearing, follow all public health orders
d. Purple Alert = 6-7 indicators – severe exposure and spread, only leave home for supplies and services, follow all public health orders
- The following Counties in West Ohio are currently in a Red Alert status –Allen, Athens, Butler, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Montgomery, Pickaway, Richland, Scioto, Summit, Union, and Wood. Without hesitation I fully support the Governor’s recommendations to limit activities and wear masks in these counties. I especially appeal to you to do this during in-person church gatherings.
- Should any counties move to Purple Alert you can expect that I will urge suspending in-person worship in those counties until the alert level comes down.
Friends, we have made enormous progress against this pandemic, but the current numbers are headed in the wrong direction and I want the United Methodist Church to do our part and more. We are in the business of love, life, compassion, and care for neighbor and self. Washing hands, appropriate physical distancing, and wearing masks is one way of caring for self and others right in our strike-zone. I am not suggesting that these actions are not challenging. Wearing a mask, standing six feet or more from people, not shaking hands etc. are so counter-intuitive for me. But in this season, it seems really wise and I contend it is what Jesus-like compassion looks and acts like in this time. “New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth.”
Yours in Christ Jesus,
+Bishop Gregory V. Palmer