Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

  1. Risk assessment: a functional way to plan for the future – and the holidays…  

          Q. I’m confused matching CDC and state guidelines to actions needed during the current COVID-19 surge. Can someone help?

          A.  If you haven’t recently watched TV or read the newspapers, the number of COVID-19 cases has been dramatically increasing!  Here are some recent Connecticut headlines:

  • “Experts: Surge could last at least another month”1
  • “As surge increases, hospital cases spike”1
  • “UConn places entire Storrs campus under quarantine”[1]
  • “Virus case sends state’s top Dems into isolation”1
  • “Outbreaks stem from dining, worship, homes”1

 

There really is surge in cases, and each day the number of new cases increases exponentially.  Over time, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is rapidly growing.

But what do we do about it?  Guidelines exist from the CDC, and the State of Connecticut:

  • Three basic actions are advised when outside and people other than within your household are present:
    • Keep socially distant – at least 6 feet away from other people.
    • Wear a cloth face covering – a mask.
    • Wash hands frequently for 20 or more seconds or when this isn’t possible, use hand sanitizer.
  • Indoor gatherings have guidelines that limit the number of people present. For example, here are a few: 
    • Commercial venues for meetings, parties, – 25 people.
    • Private residences – 10 people.
    • Religious gatherings – 50% of capacity up to 100 people.
    • Fairs &, festivals – maximum = 25% of previous year.

These guidelines are based on the situations where people gather, and primarily serve to assist sponsors of events and investigating agencies to determine compliance.  But they are conflicting and confusing for individuals trying to remember as they move from location to location.  And they change as each sequential phase is reached.

When someone rationally decides to go to their church service with 90 people present and no one there becomes infected, it is easy to consider going to a banquet hall for a 50th wedding anniversary party with 50 people attending, which guidelines indicate is “unsafe.”  Who can remember what the limits are for each kind of event?

Risk management recognizes that risk is variable.  There is no interaction with another person that is 100% COVID-19 safe.  Likewise, there is no way that one can predict with certainty that they will become infected.  Between these extremes, risk can increase or decrease depending on the actions one takes.

If risk is variable, then risk management should not be based on a memorized list of dozens of different situations.  Instead, safe procedures should be based on a foundation of habitual actions, like always putting on a seat belt when getting into a car.  Then vigilance is needed to adapt to different circumstances.  While driving wearing a seatbelt, one slows down when an erratic driver is spotted ahead, or when the roads are icy.  Regarding coronavirus-19, a person becomes infected when a concentration of virus enters their mouth, nose or eyes.  The three basic measures – social distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene – should become habitual whenever one is outside of the home.  Vigilance over the surroundings can then  lead to additional adaptive behavior.  With an upsurge in the number of cases, the chance of contacting someone with the disease increases.  One can then be more vigilant reducing the number of people that are present in various activities.  For upcoming holiday celebrations, limiting the number of friends and families who come will not only consider the increased risk of loved ones becoming infected, it also reduces the possibility that the one person who is infectious without showing symptoms will not be there.  If continued vigilance shows that community surge presents a greater risk, one can take other actions, remembering to always use the three basic habits whenever possible: masks, social distancing and hand hygiene.

  • Provide for air exchange allowing outside air to flow in:
    • Open windows and use fans to exchange air
    • Use a tent with side flaps open enough to allow air exchange
  • Using Plexiglas shields where people are required to be less than 6 feet apart
    • Serving food or tending a bar
  • Purchasing an air purifier with a HEPA filter.
    • Must have a High-Efficiency Particulate Absorbing (HEPA) filter
    • Ultraviolet light systems are not deemed as effective
    • Different levels of room sizes are available
    • Check for the frequency of complete room air exchange over time
  • Limiting attendance to members of the household living at the site

Perhaps we’re not really having “pandemic fatigue,” but rather “vigilance fatigue.”

  1. WREN Laboratory based in Branford Connecticut has a new saliva-based test.

          Q: Is there a COVID-19 test that I can use at home?

          A:  WREN Laboratory has just received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its self-administered PCR diagnostic saliva test. This is the first approved test of its kind that provides a collection system, a color coding indicating the collection has been completed and stabilized, and then does the actual analysis.  It takes about a teaspoonful equivalent of saliva spit into a tube.  This does not require medical worker assistance.   It is being marketed to schools, sports teams and other groups that need continuous testing.  It has a reported accuracy of 99%, and is designed to stay “on a shelf” for up to 12 months.  The test results are usually available electronically within 24 hours.  The cost is reported to be $150 per test.  Further information is available at https://www.wrenlaboratories.com

154. Commercial mink farms are hit hard because COVID-19 infects this animal.

          Q:  Is there any more information about pets and other animals contracting COVID-19?

          A: There are about a dozen mink farms in the US, mostly in Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Approximately 15,000 of the furry creatures have been killed by COVID-19, including 10,700 mink at just 9 American farms.  Research has shown that the mink probably had been infected initially by a human being.  Mink are raised in farms where the animals are in very close contact with each other causing the disease to spread rapidly.  Workers have then become infected by contact with the animals.  The problem is not limited to the U.S.  A study conducted in the Netherlands showed that 68% of the workers and their close associates on mink farms became infected.  Fear had been expressed over the possibility of mutations of the virus in the mink population and that this may have caused a surge in the number of human cases. However, it was later found that the disease has not yet spread this way.  Large scale mink farming also exists in Denmark.  The Danish government had announced it would kill all of its 17 million animals to help curtail a potential surge in human COVID-19 cases. The economic impact of this led to a very strong reaction.  Denmark later retracted this idea and research continues.

+++++++++++++++

 Ideas for future bumper stickers:

“We isolate now so when we gather again, no one will be missing.” 

“If vigilance becomes a habit, it will be easy to remember good actions.”

“It is better to be patient than to be a patient.”

 

[1] Hartford Courant, November 11-15, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.

Note: with the elections Tuesday and the expected delay in learning the actual results, it is expected everyone’s focus will be on the political aspects of the pandemic.  As a result, this column has been limited to a single issue – the wearing of cloth facial coverings – masks.

 

146. Wearing masks protects the public from contracting COVID-19.

          Q:  My neighbor refuses to wear a mask when we meet outside. Do masks really affect the spread of this disease? 

          A:  Vanderbilt University researchers observed that several counties in Tennessee had different regulations concerning wearing of masks when in public.  The University conducted a study to take advantage of this circumstance.  On October 28, they reported their findings.  Melissa McPheeters, PhD, a research professor at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center stated, “All of Tennessee has experienced an upsurge and an increase in those hospitalizations, but it’s hitting the hardest those hospitals that are drawing their patients from non-masked mandated counties.”

The growth in hospitalizations based on the percentage of patients they treated from counties with mask requirements between July 1 and October 20. 2020.

Hospitals with 1% – 25%           Hospitals with 26% – 50%
of patients from counties            of patients from counties
with mask requirements             with mask requirements

Growth in hospitalizations
relative to July 1, 2020

 

Hospitals with 51% – 75%              Hospitals with >75%
      of patients from counties                of patients from counties
with mask requirement                   with mask requirements

 

Growth in hospitalizations
relative to July 1, 2020

 

The study found that in Tennessee, hospitals where less than 25% of patients came from counties with a mask mandate, hospitalizations rose more than 200% between July 1 and October 20.

Hospitals in which 26%-59% of the patients were from counties with mask mandates saw hospitalizations rise by about 100% from July 1.

In hospitals where patients came from more than 75% of patients were under mask mandates, there were virtually no change in level of hospitalizations in the study period.

The conclusion:  Masks significantly contribute to a reduction in the spread of COVID-19.

147.  In Hartford, a judge will rule this week on a request to block the decision to require school children to wear masks

          Q: I read that Connecticut is in court defending the decision to require students attending school to wear masks.  Is this true?

          A:  On October 31, the Hartford Courant reported that a day-long hearing had just been conducted before the Hartford District Court in Connecticut.  Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher heard testimony to determine if masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Weeks before, a group of parents and the Connecticut Freedom Alliance had sued the Connecticut Education Department asking that the requirement that children attending classes in schools wear a face mask.  The claim was made that children wearing face masks are harmed both mentally and physically.  The plaintiffs called on a Los Angeles psychiatrist who said masks can inhibit development, cause stress and lead to other complications for children.  Also cited was the risk of oxygen depravation that can lead to permanent neurological damage in children.  The state presented the conclusion of the CDC that masks provide “source control,” reducing the chance that the wearer can spread the disease to others.  Also cited in the hearing was that not wearing masks is a strategy of “herd immunity,” where everyone is encouraged to become infected to gain immunity – a discredited program that Connecticut is not following.  The state also stated they have issued individual waivers of this rule when parents have made requests; therefore, an injunction is not required.

Judge Moukawsher stated that by early this week, he would announce if he made the decision to issue an injunction to stop the requirement for children wearing masks in schools.

 

Manchester Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, November 22, 4:00 PM

Ancestor Day — UUS:E Virtual Worship, October 25, 2020

Gathering Music (Mary Bopp) (begins at 9:50)

Welcome (Gina Campellone)

Announcements (Rev. Josh Pawelek)

Centering (Gina Campellone)

Prelude and Chalice Lighting

“Quarter Dance”

Words adapted “To the Four Directions” by Joan Goodwin and Druidic tradition
Music by Mary Bopp, lyrics by Rev. Josh Pawelek
Musical performance: Jenn Richard, vocals; Mary Bopp, water bottle
Calling the Quarters led by Sudha Sevin,
assisted by Elliot, Sadie, Denay, Paula, Fay, Gina and Josh
Videographer: Joe Madar
Video Editor: Michelle Spadaccini

With the blessing of the Hawk of Dawn,
soaring in the clear, pure air,
we call upon the powers of the East.
Spirit of the East, Spirit of Air,
of Morning and Springtime
Be with us as the sun rises in times of beginning,
in times of planting.
Inspire us with the fresh breath of courage
as we go forth into new adventures.
May there be peace in the East.

With the blessing of the Great Stag
in the heat of the chase, and
the inner fire of the sun,
we call upon the powers of the South.
Spirit of the South, Spirit of Fire,
of noontime and Summer.
Be with us through the heat of the day
and help us to be ever growing.
Warm us with strength and energy
for the work that awaits us.
May there be peace in the South.

With the blessing of the Salmon of Wisdom,
who dwells within the sacred waters of the pool,
we call upon the powers of the West.
Spirit of the West, Spirit of Water,
of evening and autumn
Be with us as the sun sets
and help us to enjoy a rich harvest.
Flow through us with a cooling,
healing quietness and bring us peace.
May there be peace in the West.

With the blessing of the Great Bear of the Starry Sky
and the deep and fruitful Earth,
we call upon the powers of the North.
Spirit of the North, Spirit of Earth,
of nighttime and winter
Be with us in the darkness
in the time of gestation.
Ground us in the wisdom of the changing seasons
as we celebrate the spiraling journey of our lives.
May there be peace in the North.
May there be peace throughout the world.

Opening Hymn

“Comfort Me”
Words and music by Mimi Bornstein
#1002 in Singing the Journey

Comfort me, comfort me,
comfort me, oh my soul.
Comfort me, comfort me,
comfort me, oh my soul.

Sing with me, sing with me…

Speak for me, speak for me…

Dance with me, dance with me…

Comfort me…

Story “The Tenth Good Thing About Barney” (by Judith Viorst)

Musical Meditation (Mary Bopp)

Joys and Concerns

Musical Meditation (Mary Bopp)

Offering

For the month of October we will be dedicating our community outreach offering to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Disaster Relief Fund. “Disasters impact our congregations and their communities with increasing rapidity.  Our donation to the UUA Disaster Relief Fund allows the UUA to respond flexibly on your behalf to tragedies that overtake us. Our Disaster Relief Fund is part of a covenant—a covenant between the UUA and congregations, between congregations who give generously and those in need, and with our community partners. Through this collection, we are able to embody our faith and values.”

Offering Music

“Haunted House” (by Mary Bopp and Rev. Josh Pawelek)

Remembrances

UUS:E members or former members who have died since our last Ancestor Day service include John Crowley, Brian Patterson and Ernie Welti.

Presentation “Trick or Treat for UNICEF”

Closing Hymn

“For All the Saints”
Lyrics by William Walsham How; Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
#103 in Singing the Living Tradition

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name most holy be forever blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!

 Thou wast their rock, their shelter, and their might;
their strength and solace in the well-fought fight;
thou, in the darkness deep their one true light. Alleluia! Alleluia!

 O blest communion of the saints divine!
We live in struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine. Alleluia! Alleluia!

 And when the strife is fierce, the conflict long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph-song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Dismissing the Quarters and Extinguishing the Chalice

Anonymous
#703 in Singing the Living Tradition

Spirit of the East, be with us always.
Spirit of the South, be with us always.
Spirit of the West, be with us always.
Spirit of the North, be with us always.
Blessed be.

­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

Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

  136. Increased infections with coronavirus-19 is encouraged by Trump.

          Q.Where is Trump getting his information that herd immunity is the right strategy?

          A:  Increasingly, president Trump has been holding rallies and giving speeches that refer to wearing masks as a personal decision, social distancing is optional, and that we need to “open up the economy” and that “schools must open up.”  The concept of herd immunity has been previously discussed in this column[1]  Scott Atlas, MD is now informally the White House medical authority who advocates letting everyone become infected with COVID-19 as a way to build population or herd immunity.

The American Institute for Economic Research is located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.  The stated mission of this Libertarian think-tank includes, “educating Americans on the value of personal freedom, free enterprise, property rights, and limited government.”  The Media Bias/Fact Check group states “They often publish factual information that uses loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes to favor conservative causes.”  While many academics participate in the Institute, it is an independent 501c(3) organization maintained by donations.  On October 4, 2020, this Institute signed a declaration that appears to have been adopted as the current national policy of the White House!  It advocates that people at low risk of death from COVID infection should individually decide if they will immediately resume their normal pre-pandemic living habits by working away from home, socializing in bars and restaurants, and gathering in large numbers at sports and cultural events (and Trump rallies!).  The goal is to contract COVID-19.  No binding government rules should prevent this.  It is presumed that most of these people won’t die, and this would build up population immunity.  If the elderly and those at risk are protected, the nationwide spread of COVID-19 would create herd immunity reducing future case loads.

Institute representatives call this “focused protection.”  They are against mandatory “stay at home orders” and other governmental mandates such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.  They advocate that the focus should instead be on “shielding” those at risk.  Individuals, based on their own perception of risk of dying from COVID-19, should personally choose the risks, activities and restrictions they prefer.  On October 5, the day after the declaration was signed, three Institute representatives from Oxford University, Stanford University and Harvard University met with Alex Azar, US Secretary of Health and Human Services and the new White House medical advisor Scott Atlas MD.  Secretary Azar, at this meeting stated, “we heard strong reinforcement of the Trump administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”  It is quite apparent that Trump has adopted the Great Barrington Declaration as the new national strategy for his combatting COVID-19.

  1. Public health officials and medical professionals declare the Great Barrington Declaration an ethical nightmare

          Q: What do scientists feel about the Great Barrington Declaration?

          A:  Medical and public health officials are opposed to this approach to COVID-19:

  • “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said this week. “It is scientifically and ethically problematic.”
  • Natalie Dean, a University of Florida biostatistician said, “It just presumes that with this level of control you can really wall off people who are at high risk.” Society doesn’t neatly separate itself into risk groups.  We’ve seen outbreaks that began in younger people move on to infect older ones. How do we isolate and protect the poor, and the socially scattered people with pre-existing health conditions?
  • To achieve a minimum 60% of the population contracting COVID-19 to reach natural herd immunity, the resulting number of US deaths would exceed 2,000,000 people – ten times the number who have already died from the disease in the US.
  • Joshua Michaud, PhD, associate director of Global Health Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation stated, “It remains unclear that COVID-19 confers immunity from reinfection. You may never be able to reach that magic ‘herd immunity’ threshold at all if people can be re-infected.”  Reinfected patients are now being reported.
  • A group of 80 researchers and epidemiologists reported in a letter published in the Lancet – a peer-reviewed medical journal – warning that  “herd immunity approaches  are a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.” They also noted that “protecting our economies is inextricably tied to controlling COVID-19.”
  • An alliance of 14 public health organizations known as the Big Cities Health Coalition issued a statement calling the Great Barrington Declaration “a political statement” that is “NOT based in science and would “haphazardly and unnecessarily sacrifice lives.” Further, “It preys on a frustrated populace.  Instead of selling false hope that will predictably backfire, we must focus on how to manage this pandemic in a safe, responsible and equitable way.”

No matter how the forthcoming elections turn out, the Great Barrington Declaration has sown many seeds of false expectations that will lead to unpredictable outcomes before returning to proven public health measures that can effectively overcome this pandemic.

  1. New research: coronavirus-19 can remain virulent for 28 days on cell phones and hard surfaces

          Q:  Is there any new research on how long coronavirus-19 stays alive on surfaces?

          A: The Australian national science agency CSIRO conducted a recent study that found the virus remains viable – able to infect people if picked up and taken near the mouth, nose or eyes – for up to 28 days.  This includes on cell phones, especially the glass on touch screens.  Sharing a cell phone with others can thus be an easy mode of transmission.  This is a longer time interval than found in earlier studies.  The results were published in the peer-reviewed Virology Journal.  “It really reinforces the importance of washing hands and sanitizing where possible and certainly wiping down surfaces that may be in contact with the virus,” said the study’s lead researcher, Shane Riddell.  To clean cell phones, use a cloth moistened with a disinfectant rather than a spray.  Otherwise, moisture might penetrate by the keys and openings to short out and damage the interior electronics.

  1. The Phase 3 trial of a vaccine by Johnson and Johnson is paused.

          Q: Under Trump’s “Warp Speed” vaccine development, will vaccines be safe?

          A: There is a wide-spread perception that the first vaccines to be available may not be safe.  Many people may not want to receive it.[2]  As a result, the FDA and vaccine developers are being careful to demonstrate that all vaccines will be safe.  Johnson and Johnson announced last week that it was pausing its Phase 3 trials to allow an independent board to review data on one patient who developed an unexplained illness.  During this pause, no additional patients will be given trial vaccines while those already in the trial will continue to have the effects of their vaccinations studied.  Under the guidelines of the FDA, the board review on this one case will be submitted for FDA approval before the trial can reopen.  Johnson and Johnson said such pauses are normal in large trials.

140. Essential nursing staff caring for COVID-19 patients are under stress.  

          Q. Is anyone looking at the long-term impact of stress on health care workers?

          A: One of the significant causes of stress on nursing staff in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and other areas of congregant living is the persistent lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).   This and the emotional stress of the constant and intense issues of tending to overwhelming numbers of critically ill patients are leading to significant burn out and psychological distress.  On October 9, which was World Mental Health Day. the International Council of Nurses (ICN) also cited that many nurses face abuse and discrimination outside of work.  Howard Catton, RN, a British nurse who is the ICN’s chief executive, reported that roughly a quarter of its national nursing associations in the greater than ICN’s 130 countries participated in a recent survey.  More than 70% of those surveyed cited they have been subject to discrimination or abuse.  Many who are considered essential workers say they have been unable to find child care to allow them to work.  Others have cited fear of exposing their own families to COVID-19 at home, and some have been threatened with discrimination by landlords refusing to renew their leases.  But paramount among the stresses cited by Catton, “We still continue to see problems with the supplies of personal protective equipment.”  These are factors to consider if a “herd immunity” strategy is followed.  Added stress could result in a shortage of nursing staff just as the number of seriously ill patients expands and overwhelm the health care system.

[1] See FAQ #84, 3102, and #120

[2] See FAQ #109

Listen to the Voices

Friends:

You can view our October 4th, 2020 virtual Sunday service, “Listen to the Voices,” led by Martha Larson on the UUS:E YouTube channel:

“Listen to the Voices” — UUS:E Virtual Worship, October 4, 2020

Gathering music (performed by Dorothy Bognar, starts at 9:50)

Welcome and Announcements (Martha Larson, co-chair of Sunday Services Committee)

Centering 

Prelude

“Listen to the Voices”
(words and music by Holly Near, performed by Sisters in Harmony)

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words

“Always a Voice Arises”

Rev. Scott Tayler, spoken by David Garnes (Permission Source: Soul Matters Secured)

What is it about this flame that opens our ears?
Opens our hearts?
“Come back to your center,” it calls.
“Return to that quiet space we long for,
And that longs for us.”
From this stillness,
always a voice arises,
if we let it.
So come, friends,
let us listen once again.
Let us find that flame inside
that guides us back home. 

Opening Hymn

“Do You Hear?”

(Words: Emily L. Thorn,  Music: William Caldwell’s Union Harmony) #112 in Singing the Living Tradition 

Do you hear, oh my friend, in the place where you stand,
through the sky, through the land, do you hear, do you hear?
In the heights, on the plain, in the vale, on the main,
in the sun, in the rain, do you hear, do you hear?

Through the roar, through the rush,
through the throng, through the crush,
do you hear in the hush of your soul, of your soul?
Hear the cry fear won’t still, hear the heart’s call to will,
hear a sigh’s startling thrill in your soul, in your soul?

From the place where you stand to the outermost strand,
do you hear, oh my friend, do you hear, do you hear?
All the dreams, all the dares, all the sighs, all the prayers–
they are yours, mine and theirs – do you hear, do you hear?

Introducing the Service 

Reading: “Listen”
(by Rev. Richard S. Gilbert, spoken by Maureen Flanagan)

Listen! Listen to what others have to say.
There is wisdom in all you meet.
Listen to the sounds of nature.
It speaks and sings and makes music
For those who pay attention.
Listen! Listen to the impulses of your spirit.
Take time to hear your inner yearnings,
That still, small voice drowned in the raucous shout.
Listen! This is a noisy world.
Perhaps, this year, we will listen.

Sharing Joys and Concerns 

Musical Meditation

“I Listen to My Heart Beat”
(written and performed by Jeannette  LeSure)

I listen to my heart beat, and find my inner peace.
I listen to my heart beat, and find my inner peace,
And breathe, just breathe
And I breathe, just breathe

Offering For the month of October, we dedicate our Community Outreach offering to the Unitarian Universalist Disaster Relief Fund. The Disaster Relief Fund disburses grants to UU congregations and recognized UU non-profit entities.

Offering Music

Prelude in E minor” (Chopin)

“How Insensitive” (Antonio Carlos Jobim)

Reading: “The Prayer of the Frog,”
(by Anthony de Melo, adapted by Rev. Kathleen McTigue,
spoken by Rob Stolzman)

Reading: “Listening With the Heart”
(by Rev. Gary Kowalski, spoken by David Garnes)

Homily: “Listen to the Voices”

Closing Hymn

“Voice Still and Small”
(Words and music by John Corrado)
#391 in Singing the Living Tradition 

Voice still and small, deep inside all,
I hear you call, singing.
In dark and rain, sorrow and pain,
still you remain singing.
Calming my fears, quenching my tears,
through all the years, singing. 

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

Reflecting Pool

Reflecting Pool

Trash Day

By Coryn Clark, 27 May 2020

 

I try to get out before the garbage trucks arrive,

my pockets bulging with single-use plastic bags once banned

and now considered cleaner than my own reusable bags

sitting idly on the back seat of my car.

I carry bamboo tongs to pluck bits of trash

from empty sidewalks where painters’ tape marks

every six feet for the queue to pizza take-out,

past sandwich boards for curbside pick-up #1, #2, #3

at the dog grooming salon,

past the new ice cream shop,

closed by the pandemic before it opened –

essential businesses, all.

I target the debris of despair:

nips, needles, beer cans, gloves, masks, dryer sheets…

and shiny stuff that will not rot:

plastic bottles, metal caps, cellophane, foil…

but not the cigarettes –

I’ll not get past the bus stop if I pick up all the butts.

I hope when we wake from this coma

and when children are let outside to play

they won’t see how we trashed the world;

they won’t know that in our despair we didn’t care about tomorrow.

I walk home under a bright blue sky after filling all my bags,

leaving many other bits of trash for another day,

except one:

a small square tequila bottle perfect

for a few sprigs of lily of the valley,

yesterday’s trash,

today’s treasure.

*****

For a welcome and instructions on submitting original writing to Reflecting Pool, click here.

 

 

Bridging / Thoughts on Reopening — UUS:E Virtual Worship, May 17, 2020

Friends: You can watch the video of our May 17th service, including our bridging ceremony,  on the UUS:E Youtube channel.

The test to Rev. Josh Pawelek’s homily is here:

I want to share a few thoughts on what it means for us to get back to normal. By “us” I mean not only those of us in this service – but us as the wider communities of Manchester and Greater Hartford, us as the people of Connecticut, us as a nation.

Earlier we conducted our bridging ceremony. I want to offer congratulations again to John, Sarah, Nate and Mason. And I want to affirm that it’s a very strange and unnerving time to be bridging into young adulthood. The University of California announced this week that it would only be offering online learning for the coming academic year. I suspect each of you will be encountering similar decisions by the schools you are planning to attend this fall. There are many unknowns, and yet one thing we do know is that you will not be launching into young adulthood the way high school graduates always have. Please know that whatever happens, we are here for you. We are committed to supporting you, along with all the other UUS:E young adults who are experiencing disruption at this formative time in their lives.

What about the rest of us? What kind of future are we bridging into?

On Thursday the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Safe Congregation Team released guidance on how to safely return to in-person congregational gatherings. While that guidance is not definitive for us, we need to take it seriously. And the bottom line is sobering. They recommend not returning to regular in-person gatherings until May of 2021. In making this recommendation they are asking us to account for the most vulnerable people among us – not only in our congregation, but also in the wider community. That is, if our UUS:E community were to gather too soon and become instrumental in the spread of a new outbreak, it would not only negatively impact our people, which for me is unacceptable; it would negatively impact people in the wider community. That is also unacceptable. The UUA’s guidance is grounded first and foremost in “our abiding care and concern for the most vulnerable, inside and outside our congregations” and the “recognition that we are part of an interdependent web and, as such, our risk-taking and our protective actions affect far more than just ourselves.”[1]

We won’t be re-opening any time soon, which means we’re going to have to be innovative and creative in all the ways we offering programming, and especially in how we keep our congregational community connected. And when we finally do re-open, we will not be the same community. This social distancing time is going to change us. We are not bridging back to our old ‘normal.’ Something new awaits. We will discover this ‘something new’ as a congregation over the coming year.

The UUA’s guidance flies in the face of the widespread impulse to re-open the country. Connecticut begins re-opening on Wednesday. Other states have already begun re-opening, even states where the infection rate is still on the rise. Here’s my question: Are those in charge of re-opening taking the most vulnerable people into account? Are those in charge of re-opening acting out of an “abiding care and concern for the most vulnerable?” Do those pushing the hardest for re-opening recognize “that we are part of an interdependent web and, as such, our risk-taking and our protective actions affect far more than just ourselves?”

Ten days ago I was in a meeting with clergy from the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance. It was so striking to hear urban and suburban faith leaders compare notes on their experience of the pandemic. Case in point: the membership of our largely white, suburban congregation has had very little exposure to the coronavirus, and only a few positive tests. We have had no deaths. Yet my colleagues serving largely black, urban congregations report widespread infection and multiple deaths. One highly community-oriented pastor said he was getting at least a phone call a day to conduct a memorial service for someone who had died of Covid-19. Other pastors reported widespread food insecurity and economic hardship. The pandemic has exposed beyond a shadow of a doubt the many race-based economic, social and health disparities in our nation. The high infection and death rates among people of color aren’t a novelty. They are a clear-as-day symptom of the old normal. On the GHIAA call this pastor, speaking through quiet tears, said “we cannot go back to that.”

Friends: I don’t know what the future holds. None of us does. But as a society we cannot bridge back to the old normal. We cannot go back to being the wealthiest nation in the world without understanding that for that wealth to exist the way it does, tens of millions of low-wage workers, immigrants, undocumented people, Black and Latinx people must live with intolerable insecurity, just a breath away from economic ruin or personal health crisis or both.

We’ve been trying to help, raising money to address food insecurity, to support undocumented people facing ICE proceedings, to support domestic workers who’ve gotten sick, and now to support non-union rest stop workers who’ve lost their jobs. These efforts matter because they help vulnerable people survive the pandemic. But let’s be clear: they don’t change the old normal. Are we ready to be in the fight for a new society?

I hope we are. The old normal was a moral failing on the part of our nation. Now, with the coronavirus, it’s a moral catastrophe unfolding before our eyes. We cannot go back to where we were. In all your conversations about re-opening, and in every interaction you may have with officials who have a role to play in the re-opening, demand two things:

All re-opening decisions must be grounded in a demonstrable and “abiding care and concern for the most vulnerable.”

All re-opening decisions must start from a “recognition that we are part of an interdependent web and, as such, our risk-taking and our protective actions affect far more than just ourselves.”

If these values can be brought to bear in the re-opening phase, we will be on our way to a better future for everyone. In my view, fighting for this future now is a moral imperative. May we find our way into this fight.

Amen and blessed be.

 

UUS:E 2020 Congregational Meeting Minutes

1:00 pm – May 17, 2020

Present – Rob Stolzman, Randy Stewart, Larry Lunden, Anne Carr, Josh Pawelek, Participating members represented by proxy

Meeting called to order at 1:06 in Zoom by Rob Stolzman.

Format of Meeting. The world is experiencing a pandemic of Corona virus.  The governor has ordered the cessation of gatherings, such as our Annual Meeting, for protection of public health.  As a result we are using an alternate form of meeting.  We have sent background information, on the matters that need to be decided, to our voting members.  Various forums have been established for our members to discuss the issues. Our voting members have sent in their proxies naming the Clerk to represent them and providing instructions on how to vote.

The Membership Committee reports receiving 136 proxies in good form from voting members.  They also report the total number of voting members is 306.  The minimum for quorum is 46, which is met.

First item: Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. The Annual Appeal has raised a total of $436,757 so far, which is less than our goal.  Some additional pledges may come in and some expenses will be finalized in the coming months.  The Finance Committee has proposed, and the Board has recommended to the congregation, a provisional budget within the resources available.  If restrictions are lifted in the coming months, we may have another Congregational Meeting to further discuss the budget.

MOTION TO APPROVE THE PROVISIONAL BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2021, by Randy, seconded by Anne.

The Clerk casts all ballots as directed by the proxies.  The Membership Committee reports the tally of 133 votes to approve, 1 votes to disapprove, and 2 votes abstain.  THE

MOTION PASSES.

 

Second Item: Election of Officers, Members at Large, and Chairpersons of the Policy Board and Program Council. The NLDC Committee has proposed, and the Board has recommended to the congregation, the following slate of candidates for their respective positions:

Vice President:  Kevin Holian-Borgnis

Personnel Committee Chair:  Vivian Carlson

Treasurer and Chair of Finance:  Randy Kurker-Stewart

Policy Board Clerk:  Jean Mamonas

Building and Grounds:  Deb Gould

Member at Large (1 year):  Peg Darrah

Member at Large (2year):  David Luchetti

Program Council Clerk:  Nancy Thompson

Sunday Services co-chair:  Martha Larson

Membership Chair (2 year):  Sylvia Ounpuu

Membership Chair (1 year):  Carolyn Gimbrone

NLDC Members:  Stan McMillen, Peter Marotto, Lynn Dove, Kate Kimmerle, Beth

Hudson-Hankins, Cressy Goodwin

MOTION TO ELECT THE SLATE OF CANDIDATES TO THEIR RESPECTIVE

Congregation Min 2020-05-17 draft Page 1 of 2      5/17/2020 POSISTIONS, by Anne, seconded by Randy.

The Clerk casts all ballots as directed by the proxies.  The Membership Committee reports the tally of 134 votes to approve, 0 votes to disapprove, and 2 votes abstain.  THE

MOTION PASSES.

 

Third Item: Election of officers from the floor. The following candidates have been nominated from the floor to their respective positions:

Social Justice co-chair:  Jim Adams

Sustainable Living co-chair:  Vacant

MOTION TO ELECT THE NOMINATIONS FROM THE FLOOR TO THEIR RESPECTIVE POSISTIONS, by Randy, seconded by Anne.

The Clerk casts all ballots as directed by the proxies.  The Membership Committee reports the tally of 131 votes to approve, 2 votes to disapprove, and 3 votes abstain.  THE

MOTION PASSES.

 

Meeting adjourned at – 1:12

Respectfully submitted

Larry Lunden, Clerk

 

Congregation Min 2020-05-17 draft     Page 2 of 2                                            5/17/2020