EPISCOPALIANS in the United States have tightened Covid safety precautions in response to what one bishop described as a “tsunami” of Delta-variant cases.
The US now has an average of about 129,000 new cases a day, a rate that has doubled in a little over two weeks. The number of deaths in the US from Covid since the start of the pandemic has reached 620,000, Reuters reports.
Churches have re-introduced face-covering requirements, and are supporting vaccination campaigns, especially in the southern states, where vaccine take-up has been low.
In Florida, new cases are at a record high, averaging 20,000 a day, and more than 90 per cent of the state’s intensive-care beds are occupied. The Bishop of the Central Gulf Coast, the Rt Revd Russell Kendrick, whose diocese covers western Florida and southern Alabama, said that a hospital official had told him: “We are in a Covid apocalypse right now.” In a diocesan message reported by the Episcopal News Service (ENS), he called on Episcopalians to offer prayers, praise, and thanks for healthcare workers on the front line. “We are now nearly drowning in a tsunami of sickness,” he said.
The Bishop of Louisiana, the Rt Revd Morris Thompson, said in a message to his diocese: “I have heard and read where some individuals have raised their objections to wearing masks indoors,” ENS reports. “This is disheartening. The primary reason for wearing masks is to protect others. Choosing not to wear masks speaks to the absence of love for our neighbour.”
New cases average more than 5500 a day in Louisiana. “Studies show being vaccinated is our best defence against Covid,” Bishop Thompson said. “Our goal is to care for one another. Let us all do our part in caring for our neighbour.”
Around half the US population is fully vaccinated, but rates vary widely by state and region. Just 35 per cent of people in Alabama and Mississippi and 38 per cent of residents in Louisiana and Arkansas are protected.
The Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, said: “Vaccines can help us save lives and make life livable. I got mine. We can get ours for ourselves, but if not for ourselves, for our children who do not have a vaccine yet.”