By BENJAMIN PRATT
JULY 26, 2021—Millions of us are trying to convince friends and neighbors to take the COVID pandemic seriously—and that includes some advice from my own United Methodist denomination as well as some wisdom I’ve gleaned from good old Benjamin Franklin.
Perhaps sharing this column via social media or email might help you convince one more person to take steps that will save lives.
Right now, the extremely transmissible Delta Variant of the coronavirus now makes up more than 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. with nearly all deaths occurring in unvaccinated people. Most regions of the country are seeing new waves of infection rising with each passing week.
Many faith groups are stepping up the promotion of vaccinations among adults and emphasizing special efforts to protect children under age 12. My own Virginia United Methodist Conference is giving very specific directives to local congregations. They are as follows:
• Rescheduling re-opening of ministries involving children under the age of 12 or revisiting our mitigation plans.
• Requiring all students, volunteers, staff and visitors to wear a mask over their nose and mouth. According to the CDC guidelines a child over 2 years old should wear a mask.
• Strongly recommend that volunteers be fully vaccinated, and implement screening for each volunteer, before any gatherings.
• Try to use outdoor spaces as much as possible.
• We recommend limiting the consuming of snacks during any event. Individually packed snacks may be shared, after the event, for consumption at home.
To stop the spread of the Delta Variant and avoid the risk of future variants, it is essential that we have everyone vaccinated! Churches have a unique role to help and assist the community in inviting unvaccinated members to receive a vaccine.
We urge churches to encourage vaccination and to protect the unvaccinated population by continuing mitigation measures, such as masking and social distancing.
We have also received advice and wisdom from a grieving Founding Father. Benjamin Franklin wrote the following in his Autobiography, “In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of 4 years old, by smallpox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret, that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”
This is footnoted as follows: “Vaccination was not at this time known. By inoculation the smallpox poison was introduced into the arm, and produced a milder form of the disease.”
As a father, grandfather and hopefully a great grandfather, I am deeply grateful when I learn that our faith communities take specific actions to mitigate the plague confronting all of us. I’m also deeply touched to learn of the personal pain and wisdom of one of our founding fathers.