As you know, an important part of the care we are taking for our people is monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases in our counties. Here is their current status:
<< For latest Porter County data click here >>
Those of you who draw your congregation from a cluster of counties will want to consult other situations as well, but the baseline for your decision making should be the situation in the county in which your building is located
We, as a diocesan staff, have made every effort to continue reviewing the ways in which we assess our situation, both according to the information being reported by our health departments and according to the changing reports about factors affecting that reporting. We have also been listening you your concerns about the differences among the situations in your various counties. As a result, you will notice a few differences between this spreadsheet and the model we showed you a few months ago.
First, we are now using a 7-day rather than a 5-day rolling average. As with the 5-day figure, the 7-day average adjusts for the fact that different people will be tested at different stages of illness. The 7-day average further allows us to account for the differing availability of testing throughout any given week.
Second, having heard your concerns about the differences in population density in different counties, we have adopted a population-sensitive severity scale used by the CDC. Different colors designate different saturation rates in the county:
Green: averaging ≤ 1 case/day per 100,000 people
Yellow: averaging 2-10 cases/day per 100,000 people
Orange: averaging 11-25 cases/day per 100,000 people
Red: averaging >25 cases/day per 100,000 people.
We have averaged the number of cases in your county for the past 14 days, compared that number with the population of your county, and assigned your county a corresponding severity color. Faith Communities in counties with an orange or red designation should not gather for in-person worship, even if they have experienced a 14-day decline in cases.
Faith Communities in counties with a yellow designation should be exercising caution. This means not gathering for in-person worship if the county has experienced a 14-day increase in cases. The exception we are making to this is in counties where the population is so small that a single case would show up as 3-4 cases per 100,000 people. In order to adjust for this, we have marked counties remaining below 5 cases/day as both yellow and green, meaning that faith communities should remain watchful with regard to a rising number of cases, but may still gather for in-person worship.
We are issuing this information on Thursday afternoon so that you have time to take appropriate measures before Sunday. What this means, however, is that we will be using, at best, the data from Wednesday. It is therefore your responsibility, as clergy and lay leaders, to continue monitoring the situation on Friday and Saturday and to cancel services if there is a sufficiently large spike in cases as to change the profile for your county. You always can call me at 574-850-5722 in order to consult if you are in doubt.
We realize that this situation will require you to deliver unwelcome news to people who are longing to return to worship in a beloved and comforting setting during troubled times. Know that you are in our prayers, for strength, courage and patience now, for the health and safety of your counties to improve soon and for an ongoing renewal of faith as together we walk the path God has laid before us.
We have received a number of questions regarding when outdoor worship is appropriate. Gathering outdoors only lessens without eliminating the risk of infection—that’s why we require all the other precautions to still be in place for outdoor gathering. Outdoor gathering is not appropriate when your county is in the orange or red zones. If your county is in a yellow rising zone, however, outdoor worship is a reasonable alternative. If your county is in a green, green-yellow <5, or yellow falling zone, then worship indoors and out are both permissible. In all cases, please also take steps to protect your outdoor congregations from the heat.