Forgiving the Virus

by | Aug 2, 2021

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

So I’m still on my Summer Olympics diet—Olympics all the time! (As I write this, they’re covering men’s trampoline, following freestyle BMX, which one can call “weird dangerous things you can do with a bike.”) Certainly it’s taken my attention away from news of the world—or at least news of COVID.

I did listen to yet another telebriefing from the LA County Department of Public Health on Friday afternoon. I don’t know what I was expecting—maybe just a plea to churches that everyone mask up again. That was said, and there is yet another revised Health Order, which was effective as of yesterday, August 1.

But I was surprised to hear the presenter rather casually stating that when they tested vaccinated people who had “breakthrough” cases of COVID, they found that the viral load of vaccinated people with COVID was the same as those who were unvaccinated. I was startled enough by this that I asked them to confirm what I thought they said, because I must have heard him wrong. If this is true, it would indicate that if you are fully vaccinated, but still get COVID (which is happening more frequently with the Delta variant), you can spread the virus to others as much as someone who is not vaccinated.

I used to think “vaccination” meant that you don’t get the virus. But the COVID vaccines seem to be most effective in minimizing the symptoms that one has if they contract the virus. I believe that vaccinated people do not contract the disease as much as unvaccinated, but a recent study has challenged many prior understandings. This week, the CDC referenced an article that described a recent outbreak as the basis for their renewed recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.

In July, in the state of Massachusetts—a state where 69% of eligible residents have been fully vaccinated— there was an outbreak in Barnstable, stemming from multiple summer events that attracted primarily men, about half from the area and half from other states. These events led to 469 cases of COVID-19, and consistent with the attendees of the events, 85% were men, with median age of 40. Approximately three quarters (346; 74%) of cases occurred in fully vaccinated persons, and all three vaccines were utilized by them. Data collected from these cases show that the Ct values (roughly, the level of virus measured in a COVID test) were similar regardless of vaccination status. As of the article’s publication, there were 5 people hospitalized and no deaths.

It’s hard to understand all of the data that seem to change. Clearly the Delta variant has raised concerns, because it is so much easier to spread, and the impact on unvaccinated people is worse. So haven’t we been here before?  Why get vaccinated if you can still get COVID?

Vaccination is still extremely important, and everyone eligible for the vaccine should get it. According to the American Cancer Society, that includes people with cancer. This also includes people with underlying conditions, such as heart conditions. If anyone has concerns, they should consult their doctor. I point this out because I have heard a number of people who are not taking the vaccine because they have underlying medical conditions—but they are the people who most need the vaccine, since they would suffer more if they contract the virus.

So what does this all mean? I hesitate trying to interpret scientific data, but if the vaccine is a shield that cannot keep every arrow from hitting you, it will stop the arrow from hurting you seriously. Conversely, those who might be most hurt by getting hit with an arrow should do everything they can to protect themselves. And if we can avoid shooting arrows at others (ie, spreading the virus) by wearing masks, all the better. This is even more important since many people can carry the virus without having any symptoms, so they are likely not to know they are helping to spread the virus. And we still cannot give our young children their own shields, so they are at risk of whatever we allow to spread.

I asked the County officials if the old-style cloth masks are sufficient now. They suggested people could increase protection (or prevent more arrows from being shot) by double-masking, or wearing KN95 or N95 masks. One doctor said that if you have a spray bottle and spray water through your mask, you should wear the mask that does not allow much of the spray to go through. He personally would recommend surgical masks (the common disposable masks), but whatever protection one wears is better than none.

Bottom line:

  1. The Delta variant greatly increases the likelihood of COVID spreading, and even some people who are vaccinated may contract it. The spread of the Delta variant can happen if a person contracts it, even if they were vaccinated, even if they don’t have
  2. LA County is again mandating that all people wear masks in public indoor Though they cannot restrict church behavior, we can still act responsibly and act safely and consistently by requiring that all people coming into our church buildings wear masks. The County still thinks (hopes) that singing is allowed if masked. If a worship leader does not wear a mask, they need to be at least 12 feet from others when singing.
  3. Those who are not vaccinated should be even more careful not to get exposed, by wearing double masks, KN95 or N95 masks, and/or keeping
  4. While we are experiencing the difficulties in offering hybrid worship, please consider doing so, so that no one feels pressure to come into church buildings in order to worship or connect with their church
  5. Finally, get vaccinated if you have not It may not be perfect, but it’s the best defense we have. One of our own minister members who had a breakthrough case but was out for just a short time said that they are sure that if they had not been vaccinated, they would be in the hospital.

I know it’s tiring and frustrating to be ever-vigilant, again. Maybe we don’t need to forgive Coronavirus 77 times, but we do need to persevere in dealing with it. The last time a pandemic like this occurred a century ago, the danger lasted for two years, and the virus came back several times. It would have been great if we could have stopped the virus permanently after just one wave, but we have to continue to find ways to protect ourselves, but moreso those who are most vulnerable. Getting the vaccination and wearing a mask isn’t the worst price we can pay to do so.

May blessings, and health, and patience be with all of us as we continue to seek ways to be faithful in these troubling times.

And may we be filled with the peace of Christ.