This Land is Your Land: A UUS:E Virtual Community Conversation

Tuesday, October 13, 7:00 PM

(For Zoom login and call-in information, watch the congregational eblasts, or contact the UUS:E office.)

What? All are welcome to participate in a community conversation about the place of the beloved Woody Guthrie song, “This Land is Your Land” in our congregational life.

Why? Rev. Josh Pawelek discussed why he feels this conversation is necessary in his September 20th homily, “This Land is Your Land?” You can read the text to his sermon here. In that homily, Rev. Josh asked: “What happens when the institutional practice of centering Black, Indigenous and other People of Color comes into conflict with our favorite traditions, rituals, music?” In the case  of “This Land is Your Land,” we know Woody Guthrie’s intent was good, and we know his commitment to fighting racism and classism was indisputable. Nevertheless the lyrics, specifically, “this land was made for you and me,” unfortunately reflect a settler colonialist mindset and simply don’t ring true for many people, especially people of color.

What For? The purpose of this community dialogue is for members and friends of UUS:E to express their views about and their hopes for “This Land is Your Land” in the ongoing life of our congregation. Our goal is not to make any decisions, but simply to listen to each other. Given that similar questions and controversies may attach themselves to many other beloved songs and readings, holding these kinds of community conversations is an important congregational skill for us to develop.

Get Ready! If you plan to participate in this discussion, we respectfully ask that you review the following resources in advance:

1)      Read or listen to Nick Spitzer’s Feb., 2012 NPR story, “The Story of ‘This Land is Your Land.’”

2)      Read indigenous folk singer Mali Obomsawin’s June, 2019 (Smithsonian) Folkways Magazine article, “This Land Is Whose Land? Indian Country and the Shortcomings of Settler Protest.”

3)      Read the (un-attributed) August, 2019 commentary on Obomsawin ‘s Folkways article, “The misguided attacks on ‘This Land Is Your Land’” in The Conversation.

4)      Read this excerpt from the introduction to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’ Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States where she specifically comments on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Get Even More Ready (optional background reading):

While Obomsawin’s article offers excellent historical background on United States settler colonial history and its impact on Native Americans, we also highly recommend taking the time to read Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s Indigenous People’s History of the United States in its entirety. You can purchase this book through the Unitarian Universalist Association’s bookstore, InSpirit, here.

If you do not have time to read Dunbar-Ortiz’ award-winning work, we suggest exploring the resources on the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website, especially the 14 minute video about the Doctrine of Discovery.

This Land is Your Land? — UUS:E Virtual Worship, September 20, 2021

Friends: You can view the entire September 20th service on our YouTube here:

You can read Widening the Circle of Concern, the report from the UUA’s Commission on Institutional Change on the UUA Website.

Read: Marsha Howland’s brief testimony on the life of the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

A Hebrew phrase from the Book of Deuteronomy is framed and hanging in the office of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This is the English translation: “Justice, justice you shall pursue.”

And she did – with determination, scholarship and fierce devotion. Our country is so much better for what she accomplished in her entire career, not just during her 27 years as a Supreme Court Justice.

We all know well some of the key pieces of her life story: That, despite graduating at the top of her class at Columbia Law School, she couldn’t get a job at a law firm (women were excluded) or an interview for the Supreme Court clerkship for which she had been recommended.

That, when she was finally a practicing attorney, she argued six cases before the Supreme Court, winning five. Cases that advanced the cause of equality of women in this country.

That, over her career, she also was important in the expansion of rights for many marginalized groups – from people of color to the LGBTQ community.

That, despite several bouts with cancer, she returned each time to her work at the Supreme Court with extraordinary speed and determination.

That, after all this and much more, she died Friday at her home in Washington.

That she is an icon, a role model and what some might call a rockstar of justice.

And that she should forever be associated with those words: “Justice, justice you shall pursue.”

*****

“This Land is Your Land?”

Rev. Josh Pawelek

I feel like I’m tied up in a complicated knot. I feel like our Unitarian Universalist faith is tied up in a complicated knot. I feel like our country is tied up with multiple lines of rope, segments of string, various fibers, wire, yarn—loops, bights and elbows—all bound together in an exquisitely complicated knot. What makes it complicated is one strand running through all of it, tying us up in the most devious of ways: white supremacy culture. We Unitarian Universalists, we residents of the United States, we human beings are called to untie this knot. Our principles call us to untie this know. Our basic sense of right and wrong calls us to untie this know. Our human decency calls us to untie this knot. The sacred power in our lives call us to untie this knot.

I’m addressing white supremacy culture this morning because this is my first official homily of the new congregational year—the year in which the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) will begin implementing recommendations from the Commission on Institutional Change. As background, many of you will remember that in the winter of 2017, UU leaders of color raised concerns about white supremacy culture operating in hiring practices at our UUA headquarters in Boston. In response the UUA’s Board of Trustees established the Commission on Institutional Change to “conduct an audit of the power structures and analyze racism and white supremacy culture within our [denomination.]”[1] Their report, published in June, offers a comprehensive assessment of how white supremacy culture operates (often subtly and despite our best intentions) in our faith.

I would love it if every adult in our congregation would read the report with open hearts and minds. It’s called Widening the Circle of Concern. You can read it online.[2] You can purchase a hard copy, download the audiobook. The UUA is working really hard at untying the knot of white supremacy culture. If our leaders speak and we don’t pay attention, it’s our loss. I am so grateful to the members of the Commission for their love and dedication, for their faith in us. Let’s not let them down. They name hard, painful truths; they offer paths toward healing, justice, beloved community and redemption. They invite us to understand ourselves differently, and to live our faith in new ways. None of it will be easy. It will take all of us, working together, to untie this knot.

One of the underlying recommendations is centering the voices of Black people, Indigenous people and people of color. The report says we “can’t dismantle systems of oppressive behavior without leaning into the knowledge and perspective of those most affected.”[3] That’s centering: prioritizing the voices, experiences, and world-view of the people most harmed by white supremacy culture. On the surface it seems simple, but the knot is tight.

What happens when the institutional practice of centering Black, Indigenous and other People of Color comes into conflict with our favorite traditions, rituals, music? For example, I used to gift our graduating high school seniors with a copy of the Jefferson Bible. I saw it as a symbol of the liberal religious spirit both in our nation and our faith. But Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder, and as president he created conditions that led to the stealing of land from and the murder of Indigenous people along vast swaths of our young nation’s western borders. He was a towering national figure in advancing freedom of religion and conscience, and he was a towering national figure in tying and tightening the knot of white supremacy. Clearly his bible is not a good gift for our graduating seniors, but we still inherit his legacies. How do we honor his contributions to religious freedom while struggling against his contributions to white supremacy?

I call this sermon “This Land is Your Land?”  Woody Guthrie was part of a 20th-century folk music movement grounded in protest and keenly aware of racism and other forms of oppression. Many UUs, myself included, regard his music as part of our sacred canon. Earlier you heard Pat, Dan and Kate sing Guthrie’s “All You Fascists.”[4] ‘Fascist’ was the term Americans used to identify authoritarian leaders in Europe, but Guthrie understood it applied to racist US leaders. “Race hatred,” he sang, “cannot stop us, this one thing I know / Poll tax and Jim Crow and greed have got to go.”[5]

Our beloved Woody Guthrie song is “This Land is Your Land,” which he wrote in 1940 as a retort to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”[6] It has become an alternative national anthem for many Americans. UU congregations regularly sing it in worship.

Nevertheless, for a few years now I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with the words “This land was made for you and me.” I understand what Guthrie meant: everyone regardless of race, religion or culture is included in America. But the literal words don’t ring true. We know this land—this United States of America—was made by and for propertied, White European men, many of whom held slaves or benefitted financially from slavery; and virtually all of whom supported the idea that the land, from sea to shining sea, was theirs for the taking by any means necessary, that it was their manifest destiny to rule, own and exploit this land, despite the fact that tens of millions of people already lived on it and had done so for more than 10,000 years. [As an aside, this week we learned the president thinks it’s unpatriotic to speak of American history this way. Frankly, I think it’s unpatriotic to teach American history as if slavery, land theft and genocide never happened.]

Today, when police shoot unarmed Black people while jogging, sleeping, barbecuing, playing in the park, and sometimes while in the midst of mental health crises, it’s understandable that Black people may not agree that this land was made for you and me. When ICE separates children from their families at border crossings and bans Muslims from entering the country, it’s understandable that immigrants may not agree that this land was made for you and me. When the federal government attempts to take land from Native American nations to benefit energy companies, it’s understandable that Indigenous people may not agree that this land was made for you and me. Last March the Trump Administration revoked reservation status for the Mashpee Wampanoag nation on Cape Cod, stating essentially that their land—the land they were living on when the Pilgrims first arrived—is not their land.[7] It is understandable that the Mashpee Wampanoag people may not agree that this land was made for you and me.

A group of us have been reading and discussing Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’ Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Dunbar-Ortiz points out that songs like “This Land is Your Land” actually reflect “the unconscious manifest destiny we live with.”[8] As I read those words last spring, my discomfort with the song crystalized. I expressed in our discussion in June that I would like us to pause and have a community conversation about the song before we use it again in worship. At that point a Native American member of our congregation acknowledged that the song is painful.

There’s the knot. Right there. A beloved song, a hurting member of our congregation.

I don’t want to lose “This Land is Your Land.” It’s important to me. But I also don’t want to cause pain, especially to Black, Indigenous and other people of color and their allies for whom the lyrics are problematic.

How do we untie this knot? We start with communication and dialogue. Our Adult Religious Education and Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committees will host an online dialogue about the place of this song in our congregational life on Tuesday evening, October 13th. There will be advanced reading. Watch the eblast for information.

I don’t know where this conversation will lead. If we pull on one thread, what happens? Will the knot loosen? Will it tighten? And this is only one small section of the knot. There are so many others. We have to talk about Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. We have to talk about Spanish language resources, cultural misappropriation, contracting with people of color vendors, supporting antiracist organizing in the larger community. All of this is part of untying the knot of white supremacy culture as a congregation.

We have to talk about the impact of white supremacy culture on women. And here’s where I want to say a few words about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. One of the implications is that there will be an attempt to ram through a supreme court nomination and selection process before the election. I won’t repeat the litanies citing the boldfaced hypocrisy and lack of integrity and disregard for precedent. But I will say there is clearly a cadre of powerful white men in charge of this process. Certainly important decisions impacting women should not be made without women present, yet there don’t seem to be any highly visible women involved in this process. This is one of the underlying dynamics of white supremacy culture operating in our nation: powerful white men believe they have the right, believe they are entitled to make these kinds of decisions. This is a raw power grab. Power over. That’s white supremacy culture operating. There’s no talk of an open, transparent and carefully considered process. There’s no talk of cooperation. There’s no talk of letting the people decide as there was when Justice Scalia died ten months before an election.  There’s certainly no consideration given to protecting women’s reproductive health. This is all part of the knot of white supremacy culture. It is painful, heartbreaking and even terrifying to watch it unfold in real time.

We need to talk about the impact of white supremacy culture on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people. We need to talk about its impact on housing, healthcare, education, corrections, policing, mental health, and a host of other issues. The knot is exquisitely complicated. We begin by centering the voices and experiences of Black, Indigenous and people of color. In the very least, when we learn that something we’re doing is causing pain, we have to pause. We have to take it seriously. We have to believe it.

Please trust this practice of centering is not political correctness run amok or coddling snowflakes who are easily offended. This isn’t cancel culture. We’re not cancelling “This Land is Your Land.” This is us attempting to untie the knot of white supremacy.

I don’t know where it leads. But I do take heart from the story Gina read earlier, Imbram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Baby: “Antiracist baby is always learning, changing and growing. Antiracist baby stays curious about all people, and isn’t all-knowing.”[9] And I take heart from the words we heard earlier from Commission on Institutional Change chairperson, the Rev. Leslie Takahashi: “The day is coming when all will know / That the rainbow world is more gorgeous than monochrome, / That a river of identities can ebb and flow over the static, stubborn rocks in its course, / That the margins hold the center.”[10]

I don’t know where it leads, but I am glad to be untying this knot with all of you.

Amen and blessed be.

[1] Commission on Institutional Change, Widening the Circle of Concern (Boston: UUA, 2020) p. vvii. See: https://www.uua.org/uuagovernance/committees/cic/widening/introduction.

[2] https://www.uua.org/uuagovernance/committees/cic/widening

[3] See: “A Word About Centering” in the Introduction at https://www.uua.org/uuagovernance/committees/cic/widening/introduction.

[4] As an aside, Rolling Stone Magazine recently published its list of the top 40 most significant protest songs in American history. “All You Facists” is the first song on the list.

[5] Listen to Woody Guthrie’s “All You Facists” on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwcKwGS7OSQ. For an awesome, updated version by Wilco and Billy Bragg, check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40ila3Rh9lQ.

[6] Spitzer, Nick, “The Story of ‘This Land is Your Land’” National Public Radio, February 15th, 2012. See: https://www.npr.org/2000/07/03/1076186/this-land-is-your-land.

[7] Taylor, Rory, “Trump administration revokes reservation status for Mashpee Wampanoag tribe amid coronavirus crisis” (Vox, April 2, 2020) see: https://www.vox.com/identities/2020/4/2/21204113/mashpee-wampanoag-tribe-trump-reservation-native-land.

[8] Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014) pp. 2-3.

[9] Kendi, Imbram X, Antiracist Baby (Kokila, 2020). See: https://www.amazon.com/AntiRacist-Baby-Ibram-X-Kendi/dp/0593110412.

[10] For the full text of Rev. Takahashi’s meditation, “Marginal Wisdom,” see: https://www.uua.org/worship/words/meditation/marginal-wisdom.

 

Homecoming: No Time for a Casual Faith — UUS:E Virtual Worship, September 13, 2020

Dear Ones: Please watch our September 13th Homecoming Service on the UUS:E YouTube channel.

The text to Rev Josh and Gina Campellone’s dialogue, “No Time for a Casual Faith,” is below:

Josh:  We just watched the Ingathering address from the Rev.  Susan Frederick-Gray, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. It was important to both Gina and me that we hear from our denominational president as we begin the congregational year. We both really like her phrase, “this is no time for a casual faith.”

Gina: For the record, she was saying that before the pandemic, but it feels even more true now that the pandemic is here.

Josh: When you hear the term “casual faith,” what do you imagine she means?

Gina: I suspect people in every religion go through periods where their faith or their spiritual practice or their involvement is more or less casual. There are times when they just feel less connected, or they don’t really apply the teachings of their faith to their living. Maybe they attend services out of habit, but they’re not really engaged. That’s a casual faith.

Josh: I think you’re right. There are probably a lot of people who are involved in religious communities but, for a variety of reasons, may just be going through the motions, may be feeling disconnected, may be focused on other things. ‘Casual’ is a good word for it. Given that, what for you is the opposite of a casual faith?

Gina: I’m mindful that congregations have always provided ways for people to connect to each other; and during these unsettled, unpredictable, upside down times, we need that connection more than ever. So, a connected faith is the opposite of a casual faith.

Josh: I’m mindful that Unitarian Universalists make commitments to each other and to our congregation. We commit to supporting one another. We commit to working for justice in our wider community. We commit to environmental stewardship. We commit to coming together on Sunday mornings for worship. We commit to seeking our truths together. So, a committed faith is the opposite of a casual faith. What else?

Gina: An engaged faith.

Josh: An active faith.

Gina: A guiding faith.

Josh: A life-giving faith.

Gina: How would you say you’re expressing that kind of faith these days Gina?

Josh: In recent weeks I’ve been trying to develop our UUS:E relationship with Power Up—the newly formed Black Lives Matter group in Manchester. They are doing some courageous things in the community, and it seems really important to me that we, collectively as UUS:E, figure out how to follow their leadership as part of our congregational commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement. For me, this is what it means to be a good institutional neighbor, a good institutional partner. This is what it means to be faithful to our principles. What comes to mind for you?

Gina: I’m working really hard to show compassion, both to myself and to others. That’s part of our second UU principle, “justice, equity and compassion in human relations.” Practicing compassion on a regular basis requires a mindfulness that I don’t come by easily. I’m making it a point to reach out to family, friends, loved ones, even folks I don’t necessarily know all that well, just to check in, touch base, and say “I’m thinking of you.” I’m also finding the courage to risk being vulnerable, acknowledging that I sometimes feel sad, or scared, or lonely. Because in doing so, it assures others that they are not the only one struggling, and that they need not struggle alone or in silence.

Josh: I think that’s a great argument for the value of this congregation in our lives. All of us are struggling to some degree with this pandemic and its related challenges and crises. It’s so important to have a place where we can come—even if it’s online—and let down our guard, be vulnerable, be human—sad, scared, lonely, or joyful, hopeful and excited. That, too, is a connected faith.

Gina: And that’s really the promise we want to make to all of you who are part of our UUS:E family. As the pandemic continues, we will do everything in our power to keep all of you connected to each other and to this beloved community.

Josh: Yes – we will do everything in our power to nurture in each of you a connected faith.

Gina: A committed faith.

Josh: An engaged faith.

Gina: An active faith.

Josh: A guiding faith.

Gina: A life-giving faith.

Josh: Friends: Welcome to the new congregational year.

Gina: Welcome home.

Josh: Amen and Blessed Be.

Homecoming: No Time for a Casual Faith — UUS:E Virtual Worship, September 13, 2020

Gathering Music (begins at 9:50 AM)

 Welcome 

 Announcements

Centering

 Prelude

“Welcome Back” (John Sebastian)

Featuring vocalists Jeannette LeSure, Janet Desmaris, Chris Cosgrove, Shoshana Levinson, Joe Madar, and DanThompson, with special guests Manchester Town Troubadour Bill Ludwig and Blues Harpist Mark Zar. Photo montage by Joe Madar.

 

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words (ad. from Amanda Poppei) (Spoken by Lacy, Gina and Josh) (Read along at the UUA website here.)

Opening Hymn                                                “Here We Have Gathered”

(Words by Alicia S. Carpenter, Music from the Genevan psalter, 1543) (#360 in Singing the Living Tradition)

Here we have gathered, gathered side by side;
circle of kinship, come and step inside!
May all who seek here find a kindly word;
may all who speak here feel they have been heard.
Sing now together this, our hearts’ own song.

Here we have gathered, called to celebrate
days of our lifetime, matters small and great:
we of all ages, living out our span,
infants and sages, sharing what we can.
Sing now together this, our hearts’ own song.

Life has its battles, sorrows, and regret:
but in the shadows, let us not forget:
we who now gather know each other’s pain;
kindness can heal us: as we give, we gain.
Sing now in friendship this, our hearts’ own song.

Special Report from the Stuffed Animal Sleepover (Gina Campellone, with tech support from Michelle Spadaccini and Heather Alexson)

 Blessing of the Backpacks  (Gina Campellone)

As many of you know, it is our custom at UUS:E to kick off the congregational year with a blessing of the backpacks (briefcases, work bags, pocket books, etc.). This year we did our best to send out a little, silver charm as our blessing to everyone who is starting school in some capacity, whether as a student, a teacher, an administrator, a college professor, etc. The charm says “Never, never give up!” we thought that was an important message given that education this year is different and difficult because of the coronavirus pandemic. If you did not receive a blessing for your backpack, briefcase, workbag, pocketbook, etc., — or if you aren’t going back to school but you’d still like a charm anyways – please contact me or Gina and we’ll make sure you get one.

The note that came along with the backpack blessing said this:

May your mask keep you sage

And your light always be seen.

May you learn and grow each day,

In person or on your screen.

May your hearts and minds journey

And discover what is true.

But most of all, may you know you

Are loved – simply for being you.

 Musical Meditation (Mary Bopp)

Joys and Concerns 

Musical Meditation (Mary Bopp)

Offering

For the month of September, our Community Outreach offering will be shared by two organizations:

Power Up is a new Black Lives Matter organization in Manchester. They are courageously bringing much needed visibility to the ongoing realities of racism in Manchester and surrounding communities. Some UUS:E members and friends have participated in Power Up’s daily rallies and other actions.

 KIDSAFE CT is dedicated to the early intervention, prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in the towns east of the Connecticut River in Hartford and Tolland Counties. Their mission is to “partner with the community to educate and empower families and promote the well-being of young people.” Their work has continued during the pandemic, though their staff is working from home.

Offertory “Crowded Table” (The Highwomen, performed by the UUS:E Children’s Choir)

Chant “Love is the Spirit of This Church” (Words by James Villa Blake, music by Mary Bopp)

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law.

This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace.

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law.

To seek the truth in love, and to help one another.

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law.

 Reading “Unitarian Universalist Association Principles”

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:

The inherent worth and dignity of every person

Kids: Each person is important.

Justice, equity and com passion in human relations

Kids: Be kind in all you do.

Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations

Kids: We’re free to learn together.

A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

Kids: We can search for what is true.

The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large

Kids: All people need a voice.

The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Kids: Build a fair and peaceful world.

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

We care for the Earth.

Chant “Love is the Spirit of This Church” (Words by James Villa Blake, music by Mary Bopp)

 Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law.

This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace.

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law.

To seek the truth in love, and to help one another.

Love is the spirit of this church, and service its law.

 Homecoming Message from UUA President, the Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray

Reflection “No Time for a Casual Faith” (Rev. Josh and Gina Campellone)

 Closing Hymn

“May Nothing Evil Cross This Door”

(Words by Louis Untermeyer, music by Robert N. Quaile) (#1 in Singing the Living Tradition) (Led by Rev. Josh)

May nothing evil cross this door,
and may ill fortune never pry about
these windows; may the roar
and rain go by.

By faith made strong, the rafters will
withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill,
will keep you warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
touching our lips with holy wine,
till every casual corner blooms
into a shrine.

With laughter drown the raucous shout,
and, though these sheltering walls are thin,
may they be strong to keep hate out
and hold love in.

Extinguishing the Chalice

Closing Circle

May faith in the spirit of life

And hope for the community of earth

And love of the light in each other

Be ours now, and in all the days to come.

Coffee Hour / Chat

 

 

 

 

More Covid-19 FAQs

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

Comment: From the start, this column has focused on the science of epidemiology – the study of the coronavirus-19 virus and its resulting disease, COVID-19.  Scientific research and preventive programs have been our focus.  It is now increasingly difficult to separate this science from political influences.  This conflict will probably increase as the upcoming elections approach.

  

  1. Draft priorities developed for groups to receive vaccines when approved.

            Q:  Has the scientific group finished its proposed recommendations for who gets an approved vaccine first, and in what order others will be vaccinated?

  1. (The outline of this activity was previously discussed in FAQ #94.)  The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a draft proposal for distributing a coronavirus-19 vaccine in the US. The proposal states the vaccine would be distributed in four phases as additional doses are manufactured and become available
  • Priority 1: Healthcare workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. It is estimated this would cover about 15% of the population.
  • Priority 2: Essential workers, teachers, people in homeless shelters, people in prisons, jails and detention centers, and older adults not included in Phase 1. This would include up to 75% of the population in phases 1 and 2.
  • Priority 3: Young adults, children, and workers in industries essential to the functioning of society who are at risk of exposure to the virus. About 90% of the public would be included at the end of Phase 3.
  • Priority 4: All others not included in the prior three phases.

This proposal was submitted to the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services.  A period for public comment was quickly announced: between Tuesday, September 1, and Friday, September 4, or for just 4 days!  The CDC will decide on the final prioritization by the end of October.  

  1. The CDC is authorized to manage a program to postpone evictions

            Q: Under what authority is the CDC acting to eliminate evictions?

A: On September 1, president Trump signed an executive order giving the CDC this role under its broad authority to establish quarantines.   The objective is to prevent people who have or may have COVID-19 from becoming homeless and thus unable to be quarantined.   While not usually thought of as a regulatory agency, the CDC is now publishing draft regulations in the Federal Register.  Individuals who are anticipating being evicted can then make application to the CDC, and if they are approved, be free of eviction during the pandemic.  It is not clear how this application and approval process will be implemented, and what penalties might exist for the CDC to impose on landlords and lending institutions that evict people anyway.  House speaker Nancy Pelosi and senate minority leader Chuck Schumer have jointly stated there are now over 40 million Americans who are at risk of eviction.  This could lead to a lot of applications!

In addition to providing exemption from being evicted, this order provides financial assistance to property owners as well as tenants.  The White House stated this assistance will be from the CARES Act passed by Congress earlier this year, as well as other government agencies such as the Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development.

There are caveats, however.  First, this order is open to all tenants and owners, not just those covered by the previous CARES Act who needed to be living in federally subsidized housing or homeowners with federally backed mortgages.  To qualify, a single applicant must show they earn less than $99,000 a year (or, if a married couple, less than $198,000).  Many other people will now be left out – including immigrants without a Social Security Number, and high earners who may have lost their jobs.  Applicants must also show they have made active efforts to seek government assistance to make rental payments, and demonstrate how they would become homeless or have to move into crowded housing if evicted.  It is unclear how managing the details of this complex application/approval process will deflect the CDC from its primary missions of research and disease prevention. It is also unclear how long approvals will take for each applicant. 

  1. CDC directive to states – submit plans to distribute vaccines by October 1

Is it true that states have to immediately plan for vaccine distribution?

A: The CDC, reportedly directed by the White House, has written the 50 states and 5 large cities asking them to submit plans to the CDC to provide vaccinations to the public beginning as early as November.  Each state has to identify where these vaccinations will be offered, and the logistics for receiving, storage, and inventory control of the doses they will receive.  Also required is identifying the workers in each of the 16 identified areas of critical infrastructure who will need to be trained.  One of the possible trial vaccines currently being developed has to be shipped and stored at minus 70° Celsius (- 90° Fahrenheit) requiring dry ice.  A second is required to be kept at minus 20°C (- 4° F).

A separate 3-page document lists assumptions to be considered in each state’s plan.  This includes identifying the individual vaccination providers who will each need to sign a separate agreement form.

  1. Public’s unwillingness to immediately get a new “untested” vaccine   

            Q: I don’t want to get a new vaccine if it hasn’t been thoroughly tested.  How do other people feel about this?

            A:  On September 4, a USA Today/Suffolk poll of 1,000 voters was published.  It shows that if a vaccine was introduced “fueled by mistrust of the Trump administration’s push to speed up its development,” 33%, or less than half of the population is ready to be vaccinated.  David Solmon is a professor at the School of Public Health at John Hopkins Medical Center.  He stated, “If you have 330 million doses of a vaccine and nobody wants it, it accomplishes nothing. You probably need between 70% and 80% of the population to get control of COVID.”

Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer.  She is well known for her landmark book The Coming Pandemic.  Her work and opinions are frequently cited in the popular press.  On September 3, Laurie, speaking on behalf of science, strongly stated, “In its mad sprint to Election Day, the White House has ordered government agencies to execute their public health duties at breakneck speed that defy credulity.”  She continued, “I can no longer recommend that anyone retain faith in any public health pronouncements issued by government agencies.”  News media reports of scientists’ criticism of politics directing the efforts are clearly playing a part of this change in public perception.

The most likely vaccines for initial approval are being developed by three pharmaceutical companies.  Each of these companies has stated they will not request authorization until all the scientific protocols have been completed.  Their concern about long-term public distrust over the early release assures these commitments are firm.  This will frustrate any proposed public vaccinations until December, at the earliest. 

  1. Trump pivots on coronavirus strategic planning.

Q:   What’s with this shift in national strategy over control of the coronavirus-19?

A:  Over the past few weeks, actions have surfaced that that national strategy for mitigating coronavirus is shifting away from the science of epidemiology.  (Issues previously discussed in FAQ #102). The recommendation for self-isolating or quarantines when traveling from a state or country with a high COVID-19 case load has been removed.  The need for testing of people who have been in contact with someone testing positive has now been eliminated.  On September 2, Politico published an article that tied these to a broader shift in national strategy.  The White House has brought on a new coronavirus medical advisor, Scott Atlas, MD.  He is a neuroradiologist trained in X-Ray, CAT Scans and MRI imaging of the brain and spine.  He is not a specialist in public health, epidemiology or infectious diseases.  The recommendations he is expounding are being picked up and implemented by president Trump.  This includes not wearing masks, putting aside the trace, test and quarantine public health model; minimizing testing of the public and opening all the schools.  In other words, expanding the number of people who will be infected    His medical recommendations are focused on building immunity in the population by letting those infected people who recover build public immunity in this way.  He does not use the term herd immunity (previously discussed in FAQ #84), but the process he is advocating is the same.  Scientists have reflected this approach if carried out would result in an estimated 2,000,000 deaths in this country, and take years to achieve.  Dr. Atlas has stated he wants to protect the elderly and those who are at-risk.  But, with asymptomatic patients making contact with family members, the elderly and those with health-risk co-morbidity, it will be nearly impossible to protect these groups.

Child’s Pose — UUS:E Virtual Worship, August 30th, 2020

Photo by Jennifer Ford

Friends: You can view the entire August 30th service on the UUS:E YouTube channel here

The text to Gina Campellone’s reflection, “On Wearing Masks,” and Rev. Josh’s homily, “Child’s Pose,” are below. 

*****

“On Wearing Masks” by Gina Campellone

Today I thought we’d talk a little bit about masks. By now I think we all know that wearing a mask is really important to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. I’m sure most of you already have some experience wearing a mask for a short trip to the grocery store, or to visit a grandparent. Beginning this week and next week, many kids and teachers will be going back to school, and that means getting used to wearing a mask for a whole day. That’s going to be a big adjustment.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t love wearing a mask. Sometimes they are hot, or itchy, or just plain annoying. But I know that wearing one is the right thing to do. I’ve learned that I like some masks more than others. I don’t like the kind that make my glasses fog up, or the kind with the elastic that digs in behind my ears. But I do like the kind that feels soft and smooth on the inside, and the kind with the little wire that you can shape around your nose to make it fit just right.

Can I show you a few of my favorite masks?

This is my hedgehog mask. See how it’s covered with cute little hedgehogs? I like it because my best friend made it for me, and I am very fond of hedgehogs.

Here’s another one. I like this mask because it’s silky and colorful, and it has a UU chalice on it.

And then there’s this one. I like this mask because it’s pink, my favorite color, and it has a tiny cactus embroidered on it.

Oh, and just a second. Let me show you a mask I wear A LOT. (Pretends to put on an invisible mask,)

What? You don’t think I’m wearing a mask? Actually, I am. It’s called my BRAVE FACE MASK. And I wear it a lot these days. I bet lots of you have a BRAVE FACE MASK, too.

Sometimes life feels scary, especially during a pandemic. Nothing feels normal, and we never quite know what to expect. When I’m feeling scared, sometimes putting on my BRAVE FACE MASK helps me feel – well, a little braver. When other people see my BRAVE FACE, I think it might help them feel a little braver, too. Having a BRAVE FACE MASK can be really helpful!

But you know what? Sometimes wearing my BRAVE FACE MASK makes me feel really, really tired. Sometimes I need to take a break from being brave. Sometimes I just need to remove that BRAVE FACE MASK and show my real, true unmasked face. I need to show my face that might be frowning if I’m angry, or my lip quivering if I’m scared, or maybe even tears running down my cheeks if I’m sad.

I don’t always need to wear my BRAVE FACE MASK.

And neither do you.

It’s okay not to be brave all the time.

You are loved exactly as you are: happy, angry, disappointed, scared, sad, brave, or all of the above!

Wear your masks wisely, my friends.

*****

“Child’s Pose” by Rev. Josh Pawelek

It is back-to-school time in Connecticut. While I want to be feeling excitement, joy and pride—and to some extent I am—I cannot escape feeling unsettled, unnerved, ungrounded. As many of you know we dropped our oldest son off at UCONN two weeks ago to begin his freshman year. Last week my wife, a high-school teacher in Glastonbury, went back to work for professional development and room set-up. She starts simultaneous in-classroom and virtual teaching tomorrow morning—that’s the hybrid model. Our youngest son starts his freshman year at Glastonbury High School tomorrow morning as well, although tomorrow morning he will be logging into his classes from home.

I’m feeling unsettled. Not just for our family, but for all of us. Even for those of you with no immediate connection to a child starting school this week, or with no immediate connection to an adult working in a school system, this is a high-stakes moment. The back-to-school decisions of school systems, local colleges and universities, and daycare centers impact all of us. And right now I still see too many people in my community, including students, not following best practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. I am hoping for a safe, positive and productive return to school for students, parents, teachers, paras, administrators, food, custodial, counseling, coaching, nursing and central office staff. I am hoping, which I admit is not quite the same thing as hopeful.

I am no expert on opening schools in the midst of a pandemic, but I have been paying very close attention over the past few months to two systems—Glastonbury public schools and UCONN—as their leaders have shared plans with the public, debated those plans—sometimes receiving withering criticism—changed, adapted, and amended those plans. Just this week a number of school systems have been forced to move all learning online in response to local coronavirus outbreaks, or because they’ve realized they simply aren’t prepared to open safely. My heart goes out to administrators trying to shepherd these plans in response to wildly divergent family, teacher and staff concerns, and in response to constantly changing virus data. This planning has been nothing short of excruciating.

My heart goes out to teachers, many of whom still feel unheard, unsafe, unprepared—some of whom are still organizing to stop in-person learning.

My heart goes out to parents and guardians who have had to strategize in response to whatever the latest re-opening plan is—how to oversee a child’s e-learning, how to procure childcare if and when they have to work outside the home on days their kids are learning from home; how to find some sense of confidence that their children are safe at school, that the virus prevention protocols will be reliably and strictly enforced; how to ensure special education needs continue to be met; how to transport kids to school. The list is long. Sometimes items on the list compete with each other. For example, if I keep my children home, they will be less exposed to coronavirus, but they will be isolated from their peers. As one parent said the other day: “these are impossible choices.”

All of us who’ve had to make these choices are doing the best we can based on health officials’ recommendations, on our own assessment of available data, on our understanding of best practices to prevent spread of the virus, on our tolerance for risk. More fundamentally, we base our choices on our love and our aspirations for our children; on our love and respect for our teachers; on our love for and trust in our administrators and public officials. I am trying to remember that love. I am trying to stay grounded in that love. And I am still unsettled, unnerved, ungrounded.

Whenever impossible choices confront us, whenever circumstances force us to choose one deeply held value over another, or to choose which risk is best for a family, the connections between body, mind and spirit begin to fray. That’s the spiritual danger we’re in right now. We begin to grow distant from critical pieces of ourselves—our regular, comforting routines, our principles, our passions, our techniques for self-care and healthy living, our feelings. I ought to be be feeling pride, joy and excitement right now, but I am stuck in unsettled, unnerved, ungrounded.

At least for me, as I consider the latest version of our re-opening plan, the latest available data, the latest risk assessment; and as I do so on screen after screen, a constant flow of online two-dimensional meetings, I grow distant from my body. Sitting in a chair, watching a screen for hours on end, is a disembodying experience. Wearing masks, social distancing, screen-based learning, the absence of physical touch, the absence of hugging, the inability to know whether the person wearing the mask is smiling at the joke you just made—these are disembodying experiences.

Yet we need our bodies in this moment. We need our bodies to let us know how we’re really feeling. We need our bodies to experience life’s simple pleasures, life’s beauty, life’s melody, harmony, rhythm. We need our bodies to experience sunlight, cool evening breezes, walks in woods, late summer New England tomatoes and corn on the cob. We need our bodies to experience connection to other people, to Nature, to the earth, to the cycles of day and night, to the slow turning of the year. We need our bodies for mystical experience, for those aha apprehensions of relationship to realities larger than ourselves that hold, nurture and sustain us. We need our bodies to remember, in those words of Starhawk we spoke earlier, Earth mother, star mother / … we are cells in your body / … [dancing] together.[1] In this disembodying moment we need our bodies to help us counteract all the ways our spirits may be suffering.

I call this homily “Child’s Pose” in reference to one of the most common, relaxing, grounding yoga poses I know. For those who aren’t familiar, in child’s pose you essentially sit with shins on the ground, knees and tops of feet on the ground; you stretch forward, torso on the ground, forehead on the ground, arms stretched out in front of you; elbows, forearms and hands on the ground. Sometimes the instructor invites the students into child’s pose as a way or resting and recuperating after a more challenging pose. I love this pose because it feels so good to be so utterly grounded. Of course, I’m mindful not everyone can or should do this pose; not all bodies work the same, not all bodies work the way they used to. I’m using child’s pose somewhat metaphorically—a relaxing, resting, grounding pose. What movement, what stretch, what use of your body relaxes you, lets you rest, grounds you?

We know children tend to live more embodied lives than adults. If a kid feels like running, they run (sometimes even when they’re not supposed to). If a kid feels like jumping, they jump, like dancing, they dance. Giggling, hugging, bike-riding, tree-climbing and anything kids feel like doing, they do.

Kids: especially those of you who are going back into school buildings, there are going to be a lot of new rules related to wearing masks, keeping distance from your friends, learning on screens, even how to eat at lunchtime. We need you to follow these rules to help keep yourselves and everyone else healthy, but we also know these rules are going to limit your ability to move. Some of you may feel these rules are holding you too tightly, holding you back, holding you in the opposite of a relaxing child’s pose. You aren’t going to be able to live as fully in your bodies as you’re used to living. So to all the kids who are listening to me this morning: I want you to be very intentional about being physical when you’re home. I want you to go outside if you can, run around, hike, bike, throw a ball, play with your pets. And when you’re inside, what can you do that uses your body? Practice a musical instrument, draw, paint, color, build things – Lego kits, pillow forts, doll houses, race tracks. Even doing your chores is good physical activity. Make sure you dedicate time each day to living fully in your body. And make sure your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and neighbors do the same. Inspire them all to be physical!

Adults: mindful this is a difficult, challenging, uncertain time; mindful that you, like me, in the face of schools re-opening, may feel unsettled, unnerved, and ungrounded, ask yourself: What is your child’s pose? What are your ways of living fully in your body? What practice, what stretch, what walking route around your neighborhood, what work around your home or yard feels good when you engage in it? What fabric feels soft on your skin, what foods you’re your taste buds sing, what tea or coffee makes your morning special, what fragrance recalls memories of a different, less harrowing time, what music sends chills up and down your spine, what song have you been longing to sing, what scene have you been longing to bring to life on canvas or paper? What work with the hands are you able to do? What quilt, jewelry piece, what photo, what wood-working project is waiting to make your hands dirty? Indeed, what is the dirt you’ve been longing to reach into? What earth still rests solid and sure beneath you? Go to that earth. Strike your child’s pose. Ground yourself. A cell in the larger body. Let that earth knit mind, body and spirit back together.

Go to that earth. Strike your child’s pose. Ground yourself.

Amen and blessed be.

[1] Starhawk, “Earth Mother, Star Mother,” Singing the Living Tradition (Boston: UUA and Beacon Press, 1993)  #524.

More Covid-19 FAQs

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

101. Positive update: reported new cases and deaths decrease

Q:  Is progress being made in controlling COVID-19?

A: Reuters News Service documented that the number of reported new cases of COVID-19 last week in the United States fell by 17%.  This was the fifth straight week of declining reported cases.  The number of deaths also continues to decline with the 6,700 deaths reported last week being 9% lower than the previous 7 days.  Even then, the United States still has the worst outbreak globally with about a quarter of all cases in the world.

An Associated Press report published August 26 quoted experts identifying the most critical factor leading to the decline in reported cases has been the increased wearing of masks.  Monica Gandhi, MD an infectious disease expert at the University of California credits the public’s growing understanding of how the virus spreads.

This reporting also cited a reduced level of testing as part of this reduction.  Jonathan Quick, MD, who heads the pandemic response for the Rockefeller Foundation stated, “We’re grossly under-testing in some of the places that are still having high caseloads.”  He singled out Georgia, Mississippi, North Dakota and Texas. The state with the greatest increase in new cases last week (a 50% increase) was South Dakota,  Infections have been increasing there since the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, which saw more than 100,000 people from August 7 to 16.  It is also worthy of note that even though the number of new reported cases in America has recently declined, the current 43,000 new cases per day is far higher than the average of 34,000 daily cases during last spring. 

  1. Negative update: CDC guidance impacting on the control COVID-19.

Q: Is the number of tests reaching the goal of 4 million tests per day?

A: Two CDC guidelines were recently modified, which impact on controlling new COVID-19 infections.  The first was concerning quarantine restrictions for all international travelers and for domestic travel from states with high levels of COVID-19 cases.  Previous guidelines called for travelers into the country from abroad to be quarantined for 14 days.  The same previous guidelines are to be self-imposed by people traveling between states from an area with a high concentration of cases.  Last week, those guidelines were revised by eliminating quarantines for asymptomatic people who might be carrying the virus.   By contrast, this revision does provide detailed guidance – to follow state and local requirements, not traveling if you feel sick, even detailed protective steps to take when pumping gasoline.  But the issue of asymptomatic patients infecting healthy people is now ignored.

A second set of revisions have more potential for increasing the spread of the disease.  Throughout this pandemic, everyone has been guided to get tested if they have been in contact with a person who has tested positive.  Last week, these guidelines were rewritten to recommend that only people who show symptoms need to be tested.  If followed, this guidance will dramatically reduce the number of people being tested.  It would also disable the classic public health program of tracing, testing and isolation.  Identifying people who were in contact with any infected person before they can spread the disease would not be possible.  And ultimately, the disease will rapidly become more prevalent.  The New York Times reported, “Two federal health officials have said the shift came as a directive to the CDC from higher ups at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services.”  Similarly, the Washington Post reported that the change “was directed by the White House’s coronavirus task force.”  This corresponds to the president’s frequent claim that increased testing results in a greater number of cases.  Many have faulted that reasoning by suggesting if we stopped offering pregnancy tests, we would have fewer babies being born.

Connecticut has joined with New York and New Jersey for collaborative COVID planning.  All three governors have stated they will not follow these recommendations and will continue to expand testing and tracing.  In fact, Reuters News Service has reported that, “a majority (33) of U.S. states have rejected the new Trump administration COVID-19 testing guidance in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s top agency for disease prevention.”  Many of the other states reported they have not yet decided if they would comply.  “This is the states almost all-out rebelling against the new guidelines,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.  Reuters continued by stating, “Public health experts said a rupture of this magnitude with the CDC may be unprecedented and shows a deepening distrust of the Trump administration and its response to the pandemic.”  

  1. Abbott’s new “BinaxNOW COVID-19” $5 rapid test authorized

Q:  When will we have a rapid turnaround test available?

A: Abbott Laboratories has already launched six different COVID-19 tests that have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA.  Last week, the FDA granted an EUA for the latest Abbott antigen test referred to as BinaxNOW COVID-19.  It simply exists as a card, about the size of a credit card, on which a nasal sample swabbed by a health care professional is deposited.  If the person is positive, within 15 minutes a colored stripe appears.  A negative finding can then be paired using a provided application allowing the person to show the negative results on their cell phone as a “digital health pass.”.  The EUA was granted on data from initial studies provided by Abbott.  These data showed that positive readings were shown for 97,1% of the 35 people who had the disease, and negative readings were shown for 98,5% of the 67 people who were not actually infected.  If continued data collected under the EUA confirms these findings, a more accurate and reliable test will confirm this as a vitally important test.  Each test costs about $5.00.  It is now designed for “point of care” use (not yet for home use) because the sample has to be taken by a trained heath care provider wearing PPE.  Abbott is now planning to have 20 million test cards shipped for use during September and 50 million tests during October.

 

  1. Vaccines in other countries  

Q: How well advanced is vaccine development in other countries?

A:  The Russian approval of its COVID-19 vaccine has already been reported in this column.  Apparently, their approval bypassed the traditional third phase of testing, which would have demonstrated its safety and effectiveness.  Last week, it was reported by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Goliikova that Russia is preparing to approve a second vaccine in September or October.  Western experts have been skeptical, warning that until all internationally approved testing and regulatory steps have been taken, no vaccine should be released for public use.  Now it has been learned that the People’s Republic of China has apparently been deploying its own vaccine since July.  While its vaccine is still experimental and undergoing trials, it is being used for over a month to immunize health care personnel and border guards.

The Washington Post’s columnist Michael Gerson noted that “vaccine nationalism” creates chaos and provides “bad medicine.”  He cites that a robust 20-year-old in a town devoid of infection could be a priority for vaccination in one country while a physician in another country with severe case loads would not be eligible for vaccination there.  He also cited that increasing infections in some countries can present a direct threat to other countries that have effectively eliminated the disease.  Covid-29 does not recognize national boundaries.

105.  FDA warns against hand sanitizer packaging.

Q:   I’ve heard about some hand sanitizer having flavoring added.  Is his true?

A:  Thursday last week, the Food and Drug Administration warned against some hand sanitizer products being packaged to look like food or drinks.  Several products have appeared on the market that look like beer cans, children’s food pouches, water bottles. Juice bottles and even vodka bottles.  Some products have cartoons on them that appeal to children.  Some do have added food flavors like chocolate or raspberry.  FDA Commissioner Stephan Hann said in a statement, “These products could confuse consumers into accidently ingesting a potentially deadly product.”   Ethyl alcohol in high concentration can be toxic.  And some hand sanitizers are still being sold that use methanol, a highly toxic substance.

Covid19 Frequently Asked Questions

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 96. Children may be “silent spreaders” of coronavirus-19

            Q:  Is the report I read true that children might be more infectious than sick adults?

            A: Cells in many organs of the body exude a particular enzyme (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) referred to as “ACE2”). This enzyme serves many different important functions.  In the epidemiology of cofonavirsu-19, it responds to the spikes on the individual virions to permit it to cross the membrane entering into a healthy cell.  It is inside healthy cells that this virus replicates into thousands of new virions that later exit that cell to infect other healthy cells.  In studying children, the current scientific hypothesis has been that children are less likely to get sick with COVID-19 because they have reduced ACE2 available thus reducing the expansion of an infection.

A recent study conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital was published this month in the Journal of Pediatrics.  The study confirmed this hypothesis, but went a step further.  Researchers studied 192 children ages 0-22.  Of this group, 49 (26%) tested positive as having the virus.  Another 18 (9%) had late onset of symptoms.  The study then found that symptomatic and asymptomatic children who were infected also had a significantly higher levels of virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in intensive care units.  Lael Yonker, MD, lead author of the study, stated, “I was not expecting the viral load to be so big.  You think of a hospital and all of the precautions taken to treat severely ill adults, but the viral loads of these hospitalized patients are significantly lower than a ‘healthy child’ who is walking around with a high (coronavirus-19) viral load.”

The risk of contagion is greater with a high viral load.  Findings from nose and throat swabs and blood samples from this study carry implications for the reopening of schools, daycare centers and other places with a high density populations of children.  “Kids are not immune from this infection, and their symptoms don’t correlate with exposure and infection,” says Alessio Fasano, MD, one of the authors of this study.  “During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have mainly screened symptomatic patients, so we have reached the erroneous conclusion that the vast majority of people infected are adults.  However, our results show that kids are not protected against this virus.  We should not discount children as potential spreaders for this virus.”  Silent spreaders! 

  1. Early FDA approvals before scientific analysis is completed.

            Q: Are Emergency Use Authorities (EUAs) by the FDA being given out too early?

            A: Last week, president Trump accused the FDA chief Stephen Hann of bureaucratic delays in approving treatments and vaccines while they are being studied.  The president’s chief of staff Mark Meadows stated, “The president is about cutting red tape.”  In a published newspaper report, “Trump aides have been banking on…  an ‘October surprise’ that could help the president make up ground in the polls.”

On Sunday, August 23, president Trump announced an Emergency Use Authority had been granted by the FDA for the use of convalescent plasma.  This was announced as a “breakthrough” and was reported to reduce COVID-19 deaths by over 30%.   However, the Mayo Clinic study, yet to be published, stated in an observational study that some groups of patients showed a 3% reduction of fatality rates, and for other groups up to 5%.  Formal studies were being planned to identify the point in a course of treatment this has a greater effectiveness, and what role a single or more than one dose might play.  It is now felt that a formal study won’t now be possible.  Few volunteers will volunteer because they know they can get this as an approved therapy.  It is significant to note that the chief scientist for the FDA, Denise Hinton, noted “Convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for COVID-19 patients.”

In separate recent political announcements, it is now anticipated that an “approved” vaccine will be announced soon during the presidential campaign.  This contradicts the anticipated completion of the current clinical trials until at least January 2021.  These trials will define a safe and effective vaccine.  With the increasing presence of political influence over science, Peter Marks, director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research announced he has vowed to resign if the Trump administration approves a vaccine before it is shown to be safe and effective.  Peter Marks has an essential role in approving vaccines.  If a vaccine is authorized for an untested vaccine, and it turns out to be unsafe, or if it doesn’t provide immunity beyond a few weeks, the credibility of the FDA and the NIH could be permanently destroyed. 

  1. Recommendations for voting during this pandemic..

            Q:  What concise recommendations exist for voting this year?

A: The Secretary of state for Connecticut has a website that is very useful for all Connecticut voters. Using this website, you can find out right now if you are registered to vote.   Later, you can check there to verify that your absentee ballot has been received by your Town Clerk – hence you won’t have to vote in person.

Another excellent resource for information is NBC.newsPlanYourVote.

Finally, the CDC has published recommendations for visiting polling places.  In addition to the usual guidelines (masks, social distancing, etc.), the following is offered:

  • Fill out a sample ballot at home to spend less time at the voting booth;
  • Bring in your own black pen to use, if allowed.
  • Bring your own stylus or similar object if touchscreen machines are used.
  • Do not disinfect any electrical devices at the voting place – it can damage them.

Rising costs for treating COVID-19 patients 

Q. Will it cost more for hospital care once donated medications are stopped?

            A:  As there was initially a rapid increase in hospitalized patients, many pharmaceutical companies developed drugs.  To gain formal approval, companies produced large quantities of these and donated them to hospitals.  This allowed studies to advance more rapidly leading to licensing authority for future sales.  IllumiCare is a health data firm that recently completed a study.  This study identifies where many patients will soon find themselves financially.  Remdesivir, once offered patients at no cost is now charged at $3,120 per treatment course ($2,340 for Medicare patients).  Tocilizumad, a drug for treating arthritis, when in hospital care of COVID patients, its use jumped 29% during July compared to June.  The cost per patient is now $2,200.  The most frequently prescribed drug for COVID-19 patients is an anti-coagulant called enoxaparin.  It was given to 50% of COVID patients last month at a cost of $322 each.  The steroid dexamethasone costs $8.78.  The study did recognize some areas of cost savings – fewer patients now require ventilators, reducing the costs of painkillers and sedatives that would otherwise have been used.  Also, the average length of stay is becoming less over time.  

  1. Testing capacity is abundant, but falling short of effectiveness.

Q:   With all the testing capability available, why isn’t the number of cases less?

A:  Reuters News Service recently published an article surveying 16 testing facilities run by commercial, state, hospital and academic labs.  It also analyzed several state and city procurement plans.  The roadblock was identified is that laboratories are locked into separate and unique proprietary supply chains.  Just a few companies dominate the market with laboratory equipment that require their separate chemical kits, small plastic parts, plates and pipettes that only they sell.  “The vendors are in an impossible situation right now where they can’t say yes to everyone,” said Geoffrey Baird who runs the medical lab at the University of Washington.  The US processes about 800,000 diagnostic tests daily, but scientists estimate that from 6-8 million tests are required per day to effectively combat the high number of infections now present.  Congress has earmarked $11 billion to support testing, but current planning at the national level shows the core issues of supply chain problems have not been addressed.  With several competing propriety tests currently in use, and more on the way, It will be nearly impossible to officially select one as “the winner” and enact the Defense Production Act to manufacture the needed supplies in sufficient quantity to meet the demand.  Those not selected would certainly not accept the loss of their investments.  To invoke the Defense Production Act to require all manufacturers to produce their individual supplies required would require the government to establish the quotas normally defined by the free market place   Gary Kobinger, a Canadian researcher best known for his work on Ebola, argues that all diagnostics should be done on an open platform”  This is not where testing for coronavirus-19 started.   Solving this problem will not be easy.

Child’s Pose — UUS:E Virtual Worship, Sunday August 30, 2020

Gathering Music (begins at 9:50)

Welcome (Rev. Josh Pawelek)

Announcements

Centering (Rev. Josh Pawelek)

Prelude  “Emptiness Dancing” (Mary Bopp)

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words “Earth Mother, Star Mother” (Starhawk, #524 in Singing the Living Tradition) (Spoken by Althea Woodard-Nelson)

Earth mother, star mother,
You who are called by
a thousand names,
May all remember
we are cells in your body
and dance together.
You are the grain
and the loaf
That sustains us each day.
And as you are patient
with our struggles to learn
So shall we be patient
with ourselves and each other.
We are radiant light
and sacred dark
–the balance–
You are the embrace the heartens
And the freedom beyond fear.
Within you we are born
we grow, live, and die–
You bring us around the circle
to rebirth,
Within us you dance
Forever.

Opening Hymn “All Creatures of the Earth and Sky” (words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, music from Ausserlesene Carholische Kirchengesang, 1623, adapted and harmonized by Ralph Vaughan Williams) (#203 in Singing the Living Tradition) (Sung by Jenn Richard)

 All creatures of the earth and sky,
come, kindred, lift your voices high,
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Bright burning sun with golden beam,
soft shining moon with silver gleam:

Chorus: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

 Cool flowing water, pure and clear,
make music for all life to hear,
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Dance, flame of fire, so strong and bright,
and bless us with your warmth and light:

(Chorus)

 All you of understanding heart,
forgiving others, take your part,
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Let all things now the Holy bless,
and worship God in humbleness:

(Chorus)

Time with Gina “On Wearing Masks” (Gina Campellone, UUS:E Director of Religious Education)

Musical Meditation (Mary Bopp)

Joys and Concerns

Musical Meditation (Mary Bopp)

Offering

For the months of June, July and August, UUS:E’s regular community outreach offering will be dedicated to a variety of organizations working to address the problem of food insecurity in the greater Manchester area. These organizations include the Manchester Area Conference of Churches, the Hockanum Valley Community Council Food Pantry and the East of the River Mutual Aid Society’s “Fill the Fridge” Program. As a supplement to our fundraising, the UUS:E Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee will be organizing food / supply drives. Watch our regular eblast for more information.

Offering Music “Jai Ma” (“Praise to the divine feminine”) (Mantras from the original Sanskrit; English words and music by Jenn Richard)

Homily “Child’s Pose” Rev. Josh Pawelek

Closing Music “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” (“May all beings be happy and free”) (mantras from the original Sanskrit; English words and music by Jenn Richard)

Extinguishing the Chalice

Closing Circle

 May faith in the spirit of life

And hope for the Community of Earth

And love of the light in each other

Be ours now, and in all the days to come

Virtual Coffee Hour/Chat

Tunnel? We’re in a Tunnel? — Unitarian Society of Hartford, August 23, 2020

Prelude Sam Moffett (musician)

Gathering Hymn  “Spirit Says Do”

You got to do when the spirit says do!
You got to do when the spirit says do!
When the spirit says do, you got to do, oh Lord!
You got to do when the spirit says do!
Spirit says do (6x)

Other verses may include sing, dance, laugh, shout, etc.

Opening Words Rev. Jan Carlsson-Bull, guest minister

Chalice Lighting Carol Simpson, worship associate

We light this chalice
For the warmth of love
For the light of truth
For the energy of action
And for the harmony of peace.
Peace in our hearts
Peace in our community
And peace in our world.

Welcome and Recognition of Visitors, Carol Simpson

Great Covenant Carol Simpson

Love is the spirit of this church
And service is its law.
This is our great covenant:
To dwell together in peace
To seek the truth in love
And to help one another.

Hymn  “I Know I Can”

Though days be dark with storms
And burdens weigh my heart;
Though troubles wait att ev’ry turn,

I know I can go on.

My sister in my heart,
My brother in my song,
Though troubles wait at every turn,
I know I can go on.

And though the journey is long,
The destination is near,
Though troubles wait at every turn,
I know I can go on.

So brothers take my hand,
And sisters sing my song,
When hope awaits at every turn,

I know we will go on. ev’ry turn,
I know I can go on.

When sorrow heals my soul
And burdens make me strong,
Though troubles wait a

Time for All Ages Rev. Jan Carlsson-Bull

Offering “Georgia” (Vance Joy Julian Spector)

Turning Inward Rev. Jan Carlsson-Bull

Candles of Memory and Hope

Reflection “Tunnel? We’re in a Tunnel?” Rev. Jan Carlsson-Bull

Musical Interlude, Sam Moffett

Extinguishing the Chalice, Carol Simpson

Closing Hymn Sam Moffett

Benediction Rev. Jan Carlsson-Bull