One million cases. In the United States, we had a million new COVID cases today.
This post is a plea to see clearly where we are and what we need to do in the weeks ahead. In effect, we must start 2022 without sentimentality or false hope. The New Year straight up. Consider this Diana’s COVID pep talk.
Last week, I talked with an epidemiologist friend (she is an expert with global experience). She warned me that we’d soon reach a million new cases of COVID per day in the United States — a number that would continue for some time. I wasn’t entirely sure I believed her. But it happened on January 4. A million cases. Per day. She was equality confident that very shortly every American will know at least one fully vaccinated (that means vaccinated and boosted) person who has a breakthrough COVID case.
There’s no spinning this. That’s a lot of illness. And, although vaccinated and boosted people will (in all probability) suffer less, many others will suffer greatly — especially children, the disabled, those with conditions like cancer, and the elderly. The “pandemic of the unvaccinated” isn’t only about anti-vaxxers and QAnon supporters. It is about people who have little personal agency, the marginalized, and those forgotten by our society. Add to that frightened parents, worried caregivers, and overburdened teachers, nurses, and doctors. It is a lot.
It is very important for us all to be prepared for these huge numbers. It is equally important to know that if a large percentage of Americans were NOT vaccinated, this would be much, much worse. Please keep that perspective. Indeed, the vast majority of breakthrough cases will be mild to moderate instead of deadly, and unvaccinated people will continue to make up roughly 90-95% of hospitalizations and critical cases. Even with the benefit we’ve gained from vaccinations, a million cases a day makes for enormous strain on hospitals and still far too many deaths.
So what should we do?
For your personal safety, please get vaccinated if you aren’t already or get the booster as soon as possible. It isn’t too late. The booster will begin working immediately to increase your resistance. Also, wear a good (non-counterfeit) N95, KF-94, or KN-95 mask in all indoor setting with strangers. ProjectN95 is a reliable source for authentic masks. Consider cutting back on in-person events and avail yourself to Zoom again (I know, I know!).
For those of you with leadership as teachers, pastors, or in less formal roles, please be clear and consistent with your communities. Make sure your colleagues and congregants have factual information, that they understand that public health science is a tool that evolves during pandemics and epidemics (just because guidance changes, it doesn't mean scientists are "wrong," it means that they are learning things in the field), and that together we all have a moral responsibility to maintain the viability of our hospitals and health care services. We need to combat conspiracy theories and disinformation with every ounce of strength we have.
All of us need to help our families, friends, and larger communities understand that many people are sick. This means services will be slow, some businesses will have limited hours or be closed, and customer service employees will be stressed. Encourage everyone to be gentle with others. Expect nothing to be "normal" over the next several weeks. Throwing a fit at Target helps no one. Say “please” and “thank you” more often. Tip generously. Be quick with a kind word. Ask for what you need from those you work with and those you serve. Create a culture of clear communication (even as it needs to be both flexible and fluid) to get through the next month.
A special word to the many faith leaders who read The Cottage: We are called to preach and teach truth in pulpits, classrooms, online, and on social media — consistently and with regard for the care of our neighbors. I know that you are exhausted. I also know that MANY people — people in your communities and congregations — are angry, in denial, and have lost their capacity to hear what is true and factual. They are taking out their frustrations on those who have lovingly and sacrificially served the public good (nurses, therapists, doctors, teachers, service workers, and clergy). The anger and anxiety of some, however, does not mitigate the calling to continue speaking truth and to care for those for whom we bear some spiritual responsibility. Truth heals. Even when people throw it back in the faces of those who deliver it.
IN SHORT, THE NEXT FEW WEEKS WILL BE HARD. Do not panic. Do not give up. Instead, be prepared. Exercise leadership that models truthfulness, care, and healing.
I know you are tired. Sick of it all. So am I. But this is our challenge, our time to do what is right, to love our neighbors, to put hard words into the world even to those who don't believe those words. Isn’t that what it always means to be a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a decent moral human? To heal even when people don’t “believe in” the disease? To offer mercy to those who act unmercifully? To care for those in despair?
Remember to pray, take small breaks as needed, cry often. But do not surrender. Please.
Keep doing what is right. You aren’t broken; you’re just worn down, sad, and tired. Even in the midst of it all, there’s still love, a healing God, good people, and a beautiful purpose for your life and theirs. You are being called to be your best self as leader, friend, and neighbor. Tell the truth with intelligence, assurance, integrity, and insistent resolve. Act with compassion and courage. That’s our path to real hope.
We can do this. Honest.
Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.
― Mahatma Gandhi
Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.
― St. Catherine of Siena
We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines
When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
— Maya Angelou, from “A Brave and Startling Truth” (Please watch Angelou read the entire poem at the United Nations.)
I will light candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.
— Howard Thurman
WHAT’S EPIPHANY GOT TO DO WITH IT?
An online event offered by CONVERGENCE/FAITH LEAD.
THIS SUNDAY, January 9 from 3:00-5:00PM eastern
Convergence/Faith Lead hosts me and Rev. Cameron Trimble for a conversation about the state of our institutions, ruptures in our culture, opportunities for people of faith and what Epiphany offers us as a lens to move forward. (This event is not produced by The Cottage.)
Convergence offers 10% discount to Cottage readers. For more info and discount link: CLICK HERE
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