Minister’s Column September 2020

Dear Ones:

And so our 2020 – 2021 congregational year begins. Welcome home! I really mean that. Even though I can’t welcome you back to our beloved UUS:E meeting house on Elm Hill at the Manchester-Vernon line, east of the Connecticut River; even though I can’t welcome you back to that physical space where the ashes of our deceased friends and loved ones are interred, where hawks fly, where deer forage, where an ancient spring hides in the woods; even though I can’t welcome you back to our beautiful, green, accessible building, I still say “welcome home.” It’s always been true that the congregation is not the building. The congregation is those of us who gather for worship in whatever form it takes, education in whatever form it takes, performances in whatever form they take, community time in whatever form it takes. I wish we could gather in person, face to face. But as you know, prudence, safety, an abundance of caution, and the guidance of our principles counsel otherwise.

While I wish I could say “welcome home” in person, there’s a part of me that is relieved I cannot do so. As I write these words, so many of us are bracing for a return to in-person school. So many of us, whether parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or friends have had to contend with the excruciating process of deciding if in-person schooling is the right path for our children. Some of us are teachers or school administrators who’ve had to prepare for in-person school knowing there is no guarantee of safety, knowing there is risk even under the best circumstances. So many of us are waking up with knots in our stomachs, wondering how back-to-school is going to play out, wondering what detail we may have forgotten to consider. I’m mindful of those words in our hymnal from the poet Wendell Berry: “When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound of what my life and my children’s lives may be.…” I’ve had my share of these moments in the lead-up to sending Mason off to college, and now getting ready to send Stephany off to teach and Max off to 9th grade. “When despair for the world grows in me.…”

I am relieved that we aren’t trying to make in-person church happen in the middle of a pandemic. I am relieved I don’t have to convince any of you that it’s the right thing to come back to in-person programming at UUS:E. Churches are proving to be frequent sources of outbreaks across the country. In my view—and certainly in the view of our leaders at the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston—we have no business returning to in-person services, especially not right now. I am relieved that at least one important touchstone in our lives doesn’t have to wrestle at all with the decision to re-open. We remain virtual!

With that, let me write the words again: Welcome Home! Welcome to the 2020 – 2021 congregational year at UUS:E. To be sure, it will be different. My prayer is that it will be spiritually nourishing for all of you—a source of comfort, sanity, peace, love and, within the bounds of safety, engagement. May it be a good year.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Book Discussion: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United Statesby Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Mondays, September 14 and 28 at 7 PM

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’ 2014 Beacon Press title, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, was selected as the 2019-2020 Unitarian Universalist Association “Common Read.” As such, the UUS:E Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee is hosting a multi-session book discussion. Two discussion sessions have been scheduled for Monday evenings, September 14th and 28th at 7:00 PM using Zoom. For login information, watch the regular UUS:E eblasts, or contact the UUS:E office at (860) 646-5151.

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire. Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.

Purchase An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States through the UUA’s bookstore, InSpirit at https://www.uuabookstore.org/An-Indigenous-Peoples-History-of-the-United-States-P17699.aspx. If you require financial assistance in making this purchase, please contact Rev. Josh at minister@uuse.org.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

  1. FDA effectiveness standard for vaccine approval

Q:  Can we expect that by Election Day, November 3, that we’ll have a vaccine and this COVID pandemic will be over?

A:  Not at all!   Many – perhaps most – people expect a rapid end to the disease when a vaccine is approved and made available.  This is the hope of politicians who want this to be true, and is fed by the frustrations of many who are confused and socially driven to resume close social contacts with other people.  This widely shared expectation, which is not based on medical technology and science can only lead to unpredicted outcomes and frustration.

A scientific consideration guiding vaccine development was recently announced.  The FDA will review data from the Phase 3 clinical trials just now underway, and grant an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) if any trial vaccine is safe and effective.  Effectiveness is defined as giving immunity to at least 50%.of the number of infected people in the control group.  For example, if 3,000 people are enrolled in the trial, 1,500 people will be given the vaccine.  The other 1,500 – the control group – will be given a harmless injection.  It is now expected that in two months, data will be compared.   If 200 people in the control group test positive, then up to 100 of the 1,500 who received the vaccine can contract the disease from others and the trial vaccine will be authorized for distribution.  As a result, people who then receive the authorized vaccine can only be assured that they will have a 50% lowered chance of catching COVID-19 from future social contacts.  Yes, they can still become infected.  Of course, it is hoped that the trials will show a higher degree of effectiveness.  Either way, it will be important when a trial vaccine is approved that everyone be informed of the level of proven effectiveness to guide their personal expectations

There are four major vaccines now being tested.  For any vaccine receiving a EUA, its Phase 3 trial will have to continue into the future.  The general population receiving the vaccine will not have a control group to make additional scientific comparisons.  Over time, if the continuing trial finds immunity is short-lived and the approved vaccine might only provide protection for a limited time, it will probably be allowed to continue.  Partial protection is better than none.  But it has to be understood from the start that social distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, and testing, tracing and quarantines will still be required after being vaccinated.  The expectation must be that the vaccine can reduce but not eliminate future infections and contracting the disease..

It is interesting to note that Russia is currently moving more rapidly than the United States through the standard scientific process.  Its goal is to become the first nation in the world to approve a vaccine.  By not following the scientific models for vaccine development, Russia may soon be approving a vaccine that is not only ineffective but may also be unsafe.  Many scientists have compared this to the late 1950s when the US and the USSR were racing to be the first to put a man in space.  “Sputnik” revisited.

  1. International study for advanced care of COVID-19 critical patients

Q: What’s new in developing therapies to treat COVID-19 patients?

A:  In 1989, a group of clinical professionals and scientists in advanced life support techniques formed a group that would share knowledge on best practices to mechanically provide oxygen to failing organ system.   One of their many developments over the years has been the creation of a machine used in an ICU to replace the functions of damaged lung tissue to oxygenate blood for circulation to the body.  This process is called ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) and has been used in ICUs to assist COVID-19 patients in respiratory distress.

There is no ECMO manual for ICU staff to follow with this leading-edge technology for COVID-19 patients.  A new consortium has been formed to organize studies to reach this goal.  The study is a multi-centered international research and sharing effort focusing on COVID-19 patients admitted to an ICU using a ECMO device.  Participants include hospitals in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and now the US.

Hartford Healthcare System has now joined this study.  This will include Hartford Hospital, and 6 other Connecticut hospitals in their network.  Other participating centers are in the Midwest and West Coast, but the Hartford Healthcare System is the only group in the northeast currently participating.  The procedures and therapies developed to compensate for temporarily disabled lungs will add to the growing list of advanced techniques to further reduce the fatality rate of Covid-19,

  1. COVID-19 during Flu season

Q:  How bad will it be when the influenza season hits during the pandemic?

A:  There has been speculation predicting increasing difficulties when the coming seasonal flu arrives.  Everyone is urged to get their flu shots when they become available starting in September and October.  This coming season, there will be two high dose vaccines for people over age 65.  This coming year, manufacturers plan to provide at least 194 million doses, which is greater than the 175 million available last year.

The problem anticipated during this next flu season is differentiating between COVID-19 and seasonal flu types A and B.  In anticipation of this, CDC has developed a new test that can differentiate between the two.  Even then, patients arriving at hospitals for care will have symptoms that are similar to each.  These patients must be treated with full PPE and isolation until test results prove it is not COVID.  Another possibility that will be studied is how to treat a person that might become simultaneously infected with both seasonal influenza and COVID-19.

The one positive factor is that protection against both COVID-19 and seasonal flu are the same.  Staying home, social distancing and wearing of cloth face coverings when outside and constant hand washing and use of hand sanitizer reduce both infections.  For people already practicing these measures, fewer people will have the flu this year than previously.

  1. Effectiveness of face masks identified   
  2. What is the evidence that wearing cloth face coverings work? 
  3. A. In an editorial published in the July14 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the latest science was reported affirming that cloth face coverings are a critical way to reduce the spread of infection within a community.  With asymptomatic patients increasingly prevalent in communities, even people who have no awareness they are spreading the virus can prevent their virus-filled exhaled air significantly spreading beyond the mask.  Two case studies were cited.  One reported in JAMA showed that in a Boston hospital system, universal masking policies reduced the transmission of coronavirus-19.  In the other, reported in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that masks worn by two Missouri hair stylists infected with COVID-19 prevented their passing the virus over several days to their 139 customers.

The effectiveness of using masks increases when increasing numbers of people adopt their use.  Optimal effect is reached when the practice is universal.  During April 7-9, the CDC conducted a survey of 503 adults.  A follow up survey was conducted later during May 11-13.  The number of people who use masks when outside the home went from 62% to 76% during that month.  White non-Hispanic adults from 54% to 75%, Black, non-Hispanic adults from 74% to 82%, and Hispanic/Latino adults from 76% to 77%.  The largest regional increase was in the Northeast from 77% to 87%.  Next was the Midwest region from 44% to 74%.

 

  1. Psychiatric disorders among newly discovered aftereffects of COVID-19

Q:   What else is being learned about the aftereffects for COVID survivors?

A:  A study conducted at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan was published last week in the scientific journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.  It found that more than half of the 402 patients monitored after being treated for COVID-19 experienced at least one of the following psychiatric disorders: post-traumatic stress (PDSD), anxiety, insomnia, depression and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.  The study found that women in particular suffered the most from anxiety and depression despite the lower severity of their infection.  “We hypothesize that this may be due to the different functioning of the immune system,” said Professor Benedetti, Group Leader of the Research Unit at the hospital.

Earlier, scientists had warned of an increasing awareness of coronavirus-related brain damage in recovered COVID-19 patients.  The psychiatric consequences of this disease can be caused by the immune responses to the virus and by psychological stress factors such as stigma, social isolation and fears about infecting others, this study reported.

UU Wellspring, Deep Questions 

UU Wellspring, Deep Questions 

UU Wellspring, Deep Questions 

The Universalist Church of West Hartford offers this program, based on small group connections, daily spiritual practices, spiritual direction, deep inquiry, and embodying/ engaging our spirituality in life.

Info: UU Wellspring. Group will meet via Zoom on first and third Thursdays, September 17 through June 17 at 7:00 p.m.,  facilitated by David Gonci.

Register by August 14: David Gonci.

Minister’s Column August 2020

Dear Ones:

I’m very excited to share with you our Sunday Service schedule for August. In short, we will be virtually visiting a number of different congregations in the region. Here’s the schedule:

August 2nd: We visit the UU Society of Bangor, ME, where UUS:E member, the Rev. Drew Moeller, serves as the minister. (Rev. Drew and the folks from Bangor visited us on July 26.)

August 9th: We visit All Souls UU Congregation in New London, CT. They are offering a service jointly created with the UU congregations in Chelsea, MA and Groton, MA.

August 16th: We visit the Universalist Church of West Hartford.

August 23rd: We visit the Unitarian Society of Hartford.

August 30th: We return to UUS:E, and welcome our friends from the Hartford, West Hartford and New London congregations.

For each of these services, instructions for logging in will be sent in our regular Wednesday and Saturday eblasts. For most of them, you will be able to log in to the UUS:E Zoom site (as you regularly do on Sunday mornings) and experience the service from there. If there are any changes to this procedure, we will do everything in our power to get the word out in a timely manner!

I’m excited about this sharing of worship services for a few reasons. First, this sharing of services will enable our UUS:E members and friends to experience how online worship looks, sounds and feels at other UU congregations. It’s not like having a guest minister visit us in our meeting house for the morning. It’s literally having another congregation’s entire worship experience for the morning. This will be a different for all of us!

Second, at least for some of the services, we will be able to interact with members of other congregations, either through the Zoom chat or through the breakout rooms following the services.

Finally, this sharing ensures that our staff and lay-leaders who regularly work on our Sunday services will get a break. (It also ensures that the staff and lay-leaders at the other congregations will be getting breaks too!)

For most of us, our primary experience of Unitarian Universalism is through our local congregation. This sharing of online services reminds us that we are part of a larger association of congregations. It reminds us that we can work with other congregations to fulfill our purpose. It reminds us our congregation is not alone, that there are others very much akin to us on the religious landscape. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic we rarely, if ever, would have thought to share services in this way. It just wouldn’t have happened. But given that we’re all living with the pandemic, and we’re all conducting online worship, it makes perfect sense that we would begin to share services on Sunday morning. A pandemic silver lining perhaps….

I am very curious to know what your experience of these other worship services. Please feel free to let me know what you like about the services at other congregations. And please let me know if you’d like to do more Sunday morning sharing as long as we’re still conducting services online.

With love,

—Rev. Josh

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

76.Impatience over vaccinations

Q:  Is it true that once vaccinations are approved, we can return to normal?

A:  The public clearly expects vaccinations to be the one definitive answer to containing COVID-19 as a wide-spread infectious disease. Caution must be taken to avoid the expectation that vaccine approval will quickly lead to the final resolution of this pandemic.  The previous push to open up the economy resulted in an explosion of the number of infected people.  Care must now be taken that once a vaccine is approved, the public cannot feel that with immunity, it’s really safe to go back to normal times.

First, consider this broad issue: should a trial vaccine in another country be approved, that other country will want to vaccinate its own citizens first before making it available in the U.S.  Many nations have entered into a pact to share their approved vaccines with other nations in the pact.  The White House has refused to enter into this agreement!

The phase 3 clinical trials for the four U.S. trial vaccines are just now starting.  The White House has repeatedly stated that approval of any of trial vaccine could be in October.  This would limit the clinical trials to demonstrating immunity for at most, 6 weeks.  If the FDA grants emergency use authorization (EUA) for any these vaccines by mid-September, it may not provide immunity for very long.  The antibodies developed by the disease itself often has shown a limited time of protection.  Many have been reinfected after recovery.   Vaccination may later demonstrate a short time of prevention from contracting COVID.

Then there is the delay caused by the need to produce and package a vaccine after it gains approval.  The proposed vaccines in clinical trials are now being produced for distribution before approval.  Pfizer BioNTech based in Connecticut, has been given a contract for nearly $2B to immediately start production of 1 million doses in 2020, with another 500 million in 2021.  So even if their trial vaccine is approved in October, it may take 15 months from now before 600 million doses would become available.

There will next be the need for a plan deciding who receives the initially limited available doses.  Would it be hospital staff first, or essential business workers?  Would it be EMS providers, or nursing home staff and patients?  Might it be government workers including fire and police, or school teachers and their students?  No reports have been found that the federal government or any state is currently addressing this issue.  How long would the general public have to wait before their time came as supplies grow in the years ahead?

Another consideration: if the immunity from a single dose is found to be inadequate, a two-dose regimen might be required.  Perhaps even a third!  The first priority would be giving additional doses to those who already have received the first.  This would require waiting into 2022 or beyond before everyone can receive the vaccination

 

  1. Crisis standard of medical care in Texas

Q: Are all hospitals able to provide adequate medical care to COVID-19 patients?

A:  The issue of not being able to provide standard medical care for patients was previously identified.  The American Medical Association has approved, when needed, the process to shift to the “crisis standard of medical care,”  This became a reality this past week in Starr County, Texas (population 64,700).  Eloy Vera, the county judge (chief executive officers in Texas are called judges) reported that the only hospital in that county was so overrun by COVID-19 patients that they have invoked the crisis standard of care.  Jose Vasquez, MD of the Starr County Health Authority announced on July 21 that the Starr County Memorial Hospital is establishing an ethics committee.  This group will define a triage system to decide how best to allocate limited resources  He stated, “For all those patients who most certainly do not have any hope of improving, we believe that they are going to be better taken care of within their own family in the love of their own home, rather than thousands of miles away, dying alone in a hospital room,”   After making this announcement, Starr County was hit hard by hurricane Hannah!

The implications of this provides added difficulties.  Do they discharge a patient already receiving care to make room for one who is deemed “more survivable?”  If not, with all beds full, what is done with new “survivable patients” who can’t be admitted?  What are the implications for the family members who are without PPE and other protective measures?  What are the legal liabilities for not first considering erecting tents or other temporary care facilities and added staff?  What are the emotional impacts from “sending sick patients home to die?”  Much will be learned from this initial use of the “crisis standard of care.”

 

  1. CDC revised guidance for opening schools

Q:  The president sent the CDC guidelines back for revision.  Where are they?

A:  After increasing public demands for more specific guidance on opening schools, the White House last week released a revision of the previously proposed guidance.  It is remembered that a few weeks earlier, a revised copy of initial guidelines was sent back by the White House as being “too tough, impractical and expensive.”  No promised revised copy was ever issued by the CDC. The current revision, released just last week, is reported to have been written by the White House staff, even though it was released under the letterhead of the CDC.  The initial guidelines issued months ago started with checklists.  The first considerations were several conditions leading to the decision not to open the school.  Planning steps were then identified to define how opening schools can best be realized.  In the currently released guidance, there was no discussion about any need to close a school.  This conforms to Trump’s demands for all school buildings to open.

Other variations from the initial guidance also reflect the president’s current demands for opening schools.  The specific reference for keeping students 6 feet apart has now been dropped.  The statement is made that a school “may consider” closing (not “must,” or “should”) “if there is substantial, uncontrolled transmission” of the virus.  CDC customarily offers objective criteria for its guidelines, such as community testing shows an infection rate above 1% – this kind of guidance is now absent.  When asked what situations would meet the definition of “uncontrolled transmission,” Robert Redfield MD, director of CDC named the “hot spots” that exists in 33 states.”  The Washington Post reported, “This mixed messaging was another indication of how health officials at the CDC have been squeezed between Trump’s demand for a normal school year and an out-of-control virus.”

 

  1. Prevalence of COVID-19 greater than reported  

Q:  Is the reporting of COVID-19 cases accurate? 

A:  The CDC on July 21 issued a report that the actual number of infected people is many times greater that the number reported.  The number of actual cases in Connecticut (population 3,563,100 is now reported to be actually between 6 to 11 times greater than the number reported up until April 1. This means that the reported 3,128 cases could represent between 18,800 and 34,400 actual cases.  One major reason for this was before April 1 only positive test results were reported to the CDC.  Testing was not as wide- spread at first, and “presumed cases” from review of medical records identifying COVID-like symptoms and other indicators were not used.  As presumed cases were added and other steps taken, a persistent problem continues to this day:  Infected people who are asymptomatic are spreaders of the virus.  Many never get tested, and are not treated.  These actual patients have to record of their infection.  It is reported that as many as 30% of infected patients are asymptomatic.  This is the major reason for wearing a cloth face covering when in public.  These masks protect everyone else from becoming infected by people who have no idea they are actually infectious and spreading the disease.

 

  1. Younger people now getting COVID-19

           Q: What’s this I hear about younger people getting this disease?

A: Teens and younger adults are increasingly contracting COVID-19.  In a sample study, people in Connecticut between the ages of 20-29 at first represented only 12.5% or all cases.  More recently in July, that nearly doubled to 23%.  Connecticut deputy state epidemiologist Lynn Sosa, MD attributes much of this to “Kids are socializing because that’s what kids do.”  With schools closing early in the pandemic, socialization in schools was not possible.  But with the warmer weather and outdoor recreation more of a possibility, the temptation for this becomes great.  Also, with a sense of a return to normal as the state opens up, the feeling of shedding restraints can be overwhelming.  Finally, it is well reported that younger people have a greater sense of invulnerability, immortality, and willingness to take risks.  “They need to realize that they are not immune to COVID,” Dr. Sosa stated.  Awareness of this issue calls for greater public education and mitigation efforts for local high schools and especially colleges and universities as they open up.  The cultural impulses and expectations for socialization in the young can be quite powerful!

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

  1. Air fresheners to clear coronavirus

Q:  Could we use air fresheners in our meeting house to help make indoor group meetings safer?

A:  Air fresheners are often called room deodorizers.  Their primary function is to mask any unpleasant or offensive odors that might be present.  None of the commercially available air fresheners disinfects or destroys bacteria or virus particles that may be suspended in the ambient air.  Using air fresheners in the meeting house would also be contrary to our policy protecting congregants who are sensitive to perfumes or personal colognes worn by others.

There are also small plug-in air cleaners available.  These pass air through small filters that screens out soot, dust and other particulates.  The individual coronavirus-19 virions are sub-microscopic and will easily pass through these filters.  In addition, the amount of air filtered is very small compared to the large volume in our meeting house rooms.

Coronavirus-19 infects people when the virus in sufficient concentration is inhaled into the respiratory system of a healthy individual.  This is why wearing cloth face coverings is an effective practice by reducing the concentration of coronavirus virions appearing in the space close to an infectious person.  There are other effective ways to reduce the concentration of virus in indoor room air:

  • The least costly way would be to send room air outside replacing it with fresh, in-flowing air. Opening windows is one tactic that could help.  Putting an outward-facing window fan in each open window would greatly improve the result.  In winter, evaluation on the degrees of heat loss in our meeting house would have to be evaluated if a room ventilation system doesn’t already add fresh incoming air to be warmed before it blows into interior spaces.
  • In hospitals, ventilation systems use High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters before air is returned to the interior. HEPA filters are commercially available for many mechanical ventilation systems. Airflow would be more restricted when using HEPA filters.  The rate of air exchange would have to be evaluated in our meeting house to ensure adequate protection.
  • Another system used in health care facilities is exposure of air taken from interior space to ultraviolet light, killing the virus before returning the air. These systems are probably too expensive for us but still could be evaluated.
  • Finally, any ceiling fans, if used, provide a very short-term benefit. These would only stir up the room air lowering the concentration of virus particles near the people, but slowly raising this concentration to critical levels throughout the room.

 

  1. Prolonged medical problems after recovery from COVID-19

Q: Once a person recovers from COVOID-19, are there any lasting effects?

A:  Continuing research is showing new problems that infected people may have after they recover. Previously identified post-recovery issues included heart damage, lung damage, strokes, and other neurological issues.  On June 27, it was reported that another type of problem has emerged.  Anthony Fauci, MD, identified a series of neurological conditions.  Dr. Fauci Identified these as “brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating.”  He continued, “So, this is something we need to seriously look at because it may very well be a post-viral syndrome associated with COVID-19.”  Work is continuing to identify the precise causes of this syndrome.  Currently the focus is on small proteins called cytokines which cross the blood barrier and interact directly with brain cells.  Post-viral or chronic fatigue is more commonly observed in women than in men.   It affects patients of all ages, but appears to be more pronounced with older people and people with underlying health conditions.  One positive aspect currently under study is it appears for many people to resolve itself with slow improvement over time.

 

  1. Sleepaway camp CDC investigation a warning for when schools open.

Q:  What problems were discovered when sleepaway camps opened?

A:  The CDC on July 31, released a report on its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report studying the experience at the YMCA Camp High Harbour, a sleepaway camp in Georgia, warning that this illustrates what might happen when schools will soon open.  The overnight camp adhered to the measures identified in Georgia’s Executive Order guiding camp operations.  It also followed most of the CDC published guidelines.  This included documentation of a valid negative COVID-19 test taken within t2 days by each person coming to camp.   It opened its doors on June 21 with 597 Georgia residents attending.  Two days later, one teenage staff member felt ill and left the camp.  He later tested positive for COVID-19.  On June 24, staff began sending other campers home.  On June 27, just under one week after opening, the camp closed.

The Georgia Department of Health began a follow-up testing program and eventually reached 344 (58%) of the attendees who live in Georgia.

  • Of the people tested, 260 (76%) tested positive.
  • Among the 136 cases whose symptoms were recorded, 36 (26%) reported no symptoms. They were asymptomatic.
  • The percentage of children testing positive diminished by age group;
    • Of the group that were aged 6-10 years – 51% tested positive;
    • Of those aged 11-17 years – 44% tested positive;
    • Of those aged 18-21 years – 33% were positive.

The camp had not followed some of the CDC guidelines.  Staff were required to wear cloth face coverings but not the children, and doors and windows were not opened to permit air-replacement ventilation.  Also, children were often engaged in singing and boisterous cheering.  The conclusion of this study was stated, “These findings demonstrate that COVID-19 spread efficiency in a youth-centric overnight setting, resulting in high attack rates among persons of all age groups, despite efforts by camp officials to implement most of the recommended strategies to prevent transmission.”

  1. Herd immunity 

Q:  What is herd immunity? 

A:  Many infectious diseases give immunity for those who have recovered.  This protection prevents the person from becoming reinfected.  The more of these recovered patients in a community or nation, the fewer the number of susceptible people who remain to get the disease.  Most epidemiologists calculate that when 60% of a population has recovered from such an infectious disease, the possibility of the remaining susceptible people would be so low that that disease would die out and no longer represent a threat.  This threshold is identified as “herd immunity.”

In Connecticut, 60% of the current population would be 2,138,000 people needing to get such an infectious disease to reach herd immunity.  To achieve this additional number of confirmed cases could be calculated on a recent 10-day average of new cases at 9.14 per day.  This would require 23,390 days (64 years) before herd immunity could be reached.  Obviously, this cannot be a goal for Connecticut to conquer this pandemic.  Some nations started out this way, including the United Kingdom and Sweden.  After closer examination, no one is now proceeding this way.

And, remember that there is early suspicion that immunity for recovered COVID-19 patients may be temporary.  If so, herd immunity might never be possible.

 

  1. COVID “saliva testing” for more rapid results.

Q:   Why do we still have COVID testing that takes a week or more to get results?

A:  Still missing is a national program for COVID-19 testing. Each state competes to identify their preferred platform from the multiple tests that have been authorized.  Many of these involve throat swabs that have to be sent to a laboratory which are all becoming overwhelmed with increased volumes.  This delays prompt reporting of the results. An ideal option would be a self-contained testing system giving prompt results by not using swabs which many people feel are uncomfortable and irritating.

One such test is now being evaluated in Australia.  It has the advantage of allowing the patient to more comfortably provide the test sample by spitting into a container.  Health workers don’t have to wear personal protective equipment to administer the test, Other tests are being developed that allow the saliva sample to be tested outside of a laboratory by offering an at-home testing kit.  Evaluation of this method is still underway.  In one small unpublished test, the saliva test was found to identify as false negatives nearly a fourth of those tested who actually have the infection.  This suggests the concentration of the virus in saliva may not be as high as found by swabbing the nose and throat.  This current effort illustrates the dynamic research underway to find better test methods.  If authority is finally granted for such a test even with many false negatives, it would allow rapid, daily identification of individuals who test positive in groups such as school students and staff. This would reduce the number of swab tests for all the others who tested negative.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

  1. Testing problems continue unresolved

Q:  Why are people in states with high caseloads not able to promptly get tests?

A:  With increased number of cases being identified, the public is requesting tests in ever expanding numbers.  Without an organized national testing program, supplies for many of these tests are hard to locate and expensive for states to purchase.  In addition, the lack of national coordination has placed excessive demand on large laboratories that do the testing.  This presents an overwhelming number of tests for some laboratories to manage resulting in long delays – up to 7 to 10 days – for results to be returned.  Finally, under the false but stated assumption that more testing results in increased number of cases, the president has been promising to close down several large testing sites the federal government has promised.  All these issues could be resolved by developing a national testing policy – but that seems unlikely for the time being.

  1. Circulatory system effects

Q: If coronavirus-19 affects the respiratory system, how come so many younger COVID-19 patients are having strokes?

A:  Initially, this infectious virus was referred as the novel coronavirus-9.  It was identified as within the coronavirus family (spherical with multiple spikes protruding resembling a crown-like object).  Bur there was little known about how this virus affects the human body compared to and contrasted from other corona viruses – such as the ones that cause the common cold.  Studies and evaluations would be needed to identify its unique or novel characteristics.  It was recognized early that a common manifestation of the COVID-19 disease was difficulty breathing.  It was spread to others through exhaled and inhaled respirations.   Later studies of how COVID-19 affected children found a significant number of cases where inflammation of body organs was found.  Another finding in younger adults was an infrequent but significant number of patients suffering strokes caused by blood clots.  The immediate impact of this added knowledge was to consider and later approve for treatment the steroid dexamethasone that reduces inflammation, and of blood thinners such as Heparin.    Investigators have now been drawn to examine more closely how the coronavirus-19 affects other organs and systems.

Earlier studies in April at Mount Sinai Hospital reported finding blood thickening and clotting in some patient organs.  A more thorough examination by autopsies of COVID-19 patients has recently been concluded at the Department of Pathology, New York University at Langone Medical Center.  Amy Rapkiewicz, M.D. chairman of the Pathology Department stated that clotting “was dramatic because though we might have expected to find it in the lungs, we found it in almost every organ that we looked at.”  Autopsies also revealed large bone marrow cells called megakaryocytes that are common in bone and lung tissues were located throughout the body in multiple different organs.  “Notably in the heart, megakaryocytes produce something called platelets that are intimately involved in blood clotting,” Rapkiewicz stated,

From these findings, it is speculated that many who have recovered from COVID-19 may have hidden organ damage.  Examples include kidney and liver damage, and a host of other conditions.  There is much more yet to be learned about this novel coronavirus!

  1. EMS resources stressed

Q:  How are ambulance resources holding up with increasing COVID caseloads?

A:  Ambulances have always been paired with the transportation of the sick and injured to a hospital.  In 1968, the national Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program was established.  EMT training, vehicle design and equipment on ambulances were all standardized nation-wide. For over a decade, with the wide acceptance of defined medical care being performed at the scene by paramedics, there have been proposals to allow paramedics to practice their skills in the field without transporting the patient to a hospital.  An example would be at a school clinic.  But this remains an aspiration for many.  Current funding of all EMS services depends heavily on the patient being transported.  Even in a municipal service, EMS is able to bill health insurance companies.  However, they do not reimburse for calls unless the patient is moved in the ambulance.  Thus, the major impact on EMS during this pandemic is financial.  If the community is overwhelmed with COVID-19 calls, the call volume can increase.  However, if the hospital and medical officials decide to request that no CPR and transport be given to all patients who are found to be  in cardiac arrest at the scene, that EMS response takes time away from other calls, and later cannot be billed.  Likewise, if the ambulance must wait in the hospital parking lot for 4, 6, or in one case 10 hours before the patient can be brought into the emergency department, there is no billing allowed for that waiting time.  If EMTs contract COVI-19 while on duty, any overtime paid for others to cover their shifts cannot be billed.  To counter all this, there is one offsetting resource available.  FEMA has the ability to mobilize ambulances from outside the disaster area to travel to the areas where added EMS resources are needed.  But even then, as this pandemic disaster widens to cover more of the nation, this pooling of shared resources becomes more difficult.

  1. Classic epidemiology: science and politics  
  2. Why is it so hard for people to follow proven recommendations of public health experts? 
  3. A. Epidemiology is the science of managing contagious diseases.  Standard strategies have evolved to control such threats.  A basic strategy to control an epidemic is “test-trace-isolate-and-treat” those affected. Accurate testing can locate infected people.  For each person testing positive, they can be asked to identify who they have recently been in contact. These new contacts are then located and tested for the disease.  All who test positive are then quarantined or isolated to prevent them from coming into contact with others.  Each recently tracked person is tested.  If their test is positive, they are asked to identify other contacts and over time, the chain of continued infections can be stopped.  This strategy has evolved into an accepted policy for managing infectious diseases.

This series of FAQ has been focused on the science of managing coronavirus-19.  But it appears that politically, it is increasingly important to reopen the economy and ignore the science.   the current situation may be better illuminated by trying to understand what is behind the political discussions overtaking this issue:

In a new book “The Imposters” written by Steve Benner, many examples are cited with explanations showing that the Republican Party has been turning away from developing policies based on expertise, analysis and research.  Policies that could result in debates leading to compromise.  This shift began long before Trump ran for the office of the president.   As far back as May 2009, GOP leaders were concerned after losing back-to-back election cycles.  “The House GOP conference chairman (who was Mike Pence) advised his colleagues to start getting rid of legislative staff – aides responsible for writing and scrutinizing policy proposals, giving the party its capacity to govern – and start hiring aides who would focus exclusively on the media.”   “Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell was often candid about how he approached his responsibility.  …the GOP senator settled on a strategy of maximal partisanship, demanding total Republican opposition to Democratic proposals” (p.7).  Trump entered office with his own unique deficits of leadership, but has been supported and enabled by the newly-refocused Republican Party.  Each of the chapters in his book focuses on one of eight different policy issue being managed including health care, immigration policy and climate change. It is well researched and annotated.  This book, perhaps can serve to better understand why so many people in the country appear to be unable to understand and sensibly react to the many rational policy options being discussed.   The full title of the book is “The Imposters. How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics”.

  1. Confusion reigns

           Q: I’m confused.  Should I send by 4th grader to school?

A: Everyone is confused!  The lack of a national pandemic policy focused on reducing the infection rate using standardized mitigation steps creates a confusing situation for the public.  As a result, Americans are divided and state and local leaders are creating conflicting strategies to contain the surging COVID-19 cases.  In Georgia, the governor Brian Kemp sued Atlanta’s mayor to prevent her from mandating masks.  Medical professionals are angry over all this because more than 1,200 of them, 161 being nurses have already died from this disease.  Many people say they won’t wear masks because it violates their freedom.  The Trump administration is demanding that all schools fully open this fall – or he will cut their federal funding.  Educators and many local officials are objecting because of the risk – to the students, staff and older people living back home.  Thirty of California’s 58 counties are on the state’s watch list and their schools may remain closed.  The CDC was ordered to revise their reopening school guidelines to make them less restrictive.  Now the CDC has decided (or has been ordered) not to provide their revised standards to the public.  Anger and angst are the expected result of all this chaos!

UUSpiritLife

UUSpiritLife

Small Group Spiritual Deepening Programs offered for members of the Hartford area UU congregations

UUSpiritLife

Please Note: Registration for this program is now closed

UUSpiritLife, a new 10-month long adult program created for the three Hartford-area Unitarian Universalist churches, invites UUs to form and deepen a meaningful spiritual life.

When we pause first for the inward action of spiritual renewal, we become more confident and impactful in our outward actions whether they involve our personal lives, social action or the many engaging tasks of congregational life.

Using a contemplative model, we will come together in a safe, nonjudgmental environment that reaches beyond discussion of heady topics to connect with mystery and awe – the intrinsic power, beauty and goodness of being human. The program includes many experiential opportunities to discover our own personal spirituality and to get in touch with the still, small inner voice that is our internal guidance system.

UUSpiritLife is open to members of all three area churches. A daytime group facilitated by Judy Robbins and Rick Tsukada will meet Tuesday mornings 10:00-noon, starting September 15, 2020. An evening group, facilitated by Tom Gervais will run on Tuesday evenings 7:00-9:00 PM. The groups meet on the first and third Tuesdays starting Sept 15, 2020 and running through June 1, 2021. All groups will be on the Zoom format, transitioning to in-person meetings if possible.

Spaces are very limited in these groups and registration closes August 14, but to insure your best chance at a place, do not to wait until the last minute. To express an interest, ask questions or to register, email Judy Robbins (day group) Judyrobb2@gmail.com or Tom Gervais (evening) tom.j.gervais@gmail.com

UU Wellspring – Deep Questions

Please Note: This Class Has Been Postponed

The Universalist Church of West Hartford is offering a UUWellspring module: Deep Questions, open to members of all three area UU churches. The UU Wellspring program is based on small group connections, daily spiritual practices, spiritual direction, deep inquiry, and embodying/engaging our spirituality in life. The Deep Questions program focuses on deep questions of our lives, including human nature, forgiveness/acceptance, prayer, death and dying, accountability, sacred activism, and our relationship to the planet. It explores these and other themes in conjunction with the seven UU principles. For more information, please visit www.uuwellspring.org.

The Wellspring Deep Questions program shares UUSpiritLife’s focus on inward experience and spiritual connection/renewal. A committed group will meet twice monthly on the first and third Thursdays at 7pm and will be facilitated by David Gonci. The program will begin on September 17, 2020 and conclude on June 17, 2021. Group size will be limited, and will initially be conducted on Zoom. As with the SpiritLife program, registration closes on Aug 14 and spaces are limited, so please act quickly to insure a place. For further information, questions or to register, please contact David by emailing to david@gonci.com or calling 413-281-1973.

Lughnasadh Ritual

Lughnasadh Ritual

Join the UUS:E Pagan Study Group Saturday, August 1st, 6:00 PM via Zoom
All are Welcome!

Please join the UUS:E Pagan Study Group as we celebrate Lughnasadh, the first food harvest of the season, via Zoom. Peggy Gagne will host by casting a circle at her own altar and include in her circle all who wish to join the celebration as the Wheel of the Year turns. We will have a little history, along with a look at what we have harvested this year and what we have to be thankful for.

Please plan on having a small snack and drink of some kind on hand so we can all share in cakes and ale. Also, plan on having on available – 2-3 squares of paper (about notecard size) and a pen or pencil in order to participate in the ritual.

To join our Zoom Meeting please watch for the link in the weekly E-Blast or contact the UUS: E office for the Zoom link @ 860-646-5151 or uuseoffice@uuse.org