March 2021 Reopening Task Force Report

The 1stUUPB Reopening Task Force met again on March 27. We are watching the situation in Palm Beach County closely and taking into consideration the guidance of the CDC, the UUA, and Covid Act Now particularly. We are hopeful for at least a partial reopening by the fall and more in person outdoor events in the near future as well as seeing the sanctuary technology upgrades be used to offer truly equitable multi-platform events. 

Please continue to fill in the quick Potential Online Contact Tracing form if you need to be on campus for mission critical activities indoors, or meeting with others. Please read the Guidelines for Outdoor Events if you are the coordinator of an event and also fill in the online form after the event. Individuals and individual families are welcome to visit our campus, outdoors only, and need not fill out the form. 

If you haven’t been following the Covid news, here are two articles, sent out on March 30, by Covid Act Now, that show the uncertainty of the current situation: The U.S. Is Now On Track To Vaccinate All Adults By July 4 (Vox), The Fourth Surge Of The Pandemic Is Upon Us (The Atlantic). And in that same email, there was this tidbit: CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announces that vaccinated people do not carry the virus. So we are still on the roller coaster (hold on, stay strapped in!), but there is HOPE!

CDC and UUA guidance indicate that this is not time to let our guard down. It’s still several months before a large enough portion of the population is vaccinated to contain the disease and too little is known about possible transmission by vaccinated individuals. One particular concern is new variants arising now for which the vaccines may not be effective, potentially putting us back at square one. The CDC is recommending continuing all preventative measures in most situations even for those fully vaccinated.  Please read their full guidance here. The UUA sent out information to congregational leaders with these helpful words:

“Although there is good news on the horizon, we are not yet able to gather in person. We are in a critical phase of the pandemic where we need to reduce the spread of the virus to combat new variants while vaccine distribution continues.

Now is the time to start planning for how to guide your community as the pandemic subsides.

Navigating this “in-between time” will be even more challenging than dealing with the early days of the pandemic. Those who are vaccinated may wish to start gathering in person sooner. Each person and family will have different levels of risk and risk tolerance. As leaders, we have to navigate complex decisions taking into account care for the whole of our communities—within and beyond our congregations. Our priority continues to be abiding care for the most vulnerable, within and beyond our congregations.”

We are very excited about the upgrades in our Sanctuary but that is also in an in-between time. Most of the equipment is installed and we will be working on getting that system up and ready so that we will be able to offer truly equitable multi-platform services and events when we are able to begin having people gathering in person indoors. As a religious community that strives to be inclusive, we need to not only think about the people we know who are here, but those in our larger community that we hope will be joining us.

Please be patient with this “in-between” time! If you have ideas of how we can get together in small groups outdoors on our campus, please do bring them to the Board. As always, if you have any questions you may reach out to any of the task force members: Linda Hartley, Rachel Melcher, Steve Pock, or Suzanne Schluter.

The Numbers and Graphs (from March 25 and April 1):

The number of new daily cases in PBC have come down since last month, we are now (as of March 25, 2021) in the “high risk” category instead of “very high risk” for outbreak. And we are very happy that 16.9% of the population has been fully vaccinated and that vaccination rollout has increased quite a bit recently. Still we are at 22 new cases per 100,000 people per day which is down considerably from the 68 high in early January, but still more than the 5-8 new cases in April through June and September-October of last year. (see graph) In addition Palm Beach County is more vulnerable than 80% of U.S. counties, making it more likely to experience severe physical and economic suffering from COVID, and to face a harder, longer recovery.

Graphics below: the first of each is from March 25 and the second of each is April 1.

Link to access current Covid Act Now data for Palm Beach County: