A new month has begun. When I wrote for this column late last year, we were entering another terrible time of the pandemic of COVID-19 in Delaware County. New cases were rising exponentially and as we already knew, more disability and death would arise weeks later.
Today, new cases are dropping but few people remain who do not know someone who was hospitalized, who died, or both, from COVID-19. And yet, throughout the U.S., there are still people who’ve not taken a vaccine to prevent it, thinking that the risk of taking it is greater than that of being hospitalized or dying. Last night the national newscasts reported that almost 100% of the people now hospitalized and dying from the virus in the U.S. are not vaccinated.
With over 600,000 in the U.S. now dead from the virus, each of us can begin to see the staggering impact to our nation – and the world. So far, the normal losses of physical life can be devastating enough, but now we’re seeing more infections and deaths in the under-age-60 groups than those who are older. We pray for healing and to take care of people who for medical reasons can’t take the vaccine or by reason of age are not yet eligible.
It’s on my heart that God gives us skills and abilities, including science, to live a better physical life. (For more thoughts about God and science, see “Quarks, Chaos & Christianity,” by John Polkinghorne.) God does not want us to lose our good health and ability to live well in this life into which God has created us. The risks of COVID-19 should not be underestimated, neither should the risks associated with taking vaccines. There should be no shaming – no shame in taking or not taking the vaccine; no shame in wearing or a mask.
I believe I can choose to wear a hat to reduce the probability of getting skin cancer, but if I don’t wear a hat, that doesn’t increase the chance of other people getting skin cancer. If my action or inaction creates a greater chance of hurting or killing someone else, if I can prevent it by doing or not doing something, I will. Others may choose differently of course, but there is a measure of myself that I must offer in consideration of others, a sacrifice of time and money as God calls me to do.
Who are the people now on the “margins” of society? Is it those who wear masks? Those who choose not to be vaccinated? Those whose immune systems are compromised and so are subject to threat of severe illness or death by this virus? Those who are not yet eligible for the vaccines? Jesus Christ calls us to serve those especially on the “margins.” In many ways, they are the least able to change their circumstances, they are most likely to be fearful of change, fearful of an infection.
It’s with great hope and gratitude I noticed that the news for Delaware County last week was that our county has the highest vaccination rate of any county in Ohio, at 55%. As new variants rise and old variants spread, this gives us promise for the general safety of all folks in the county. Where the virus has little chance for a foothold, there is much less chance for its spread.
A new month begins, and we come closer to that return to “normal” – but it’s not really normal. Calling it a “new normal” doesn’t do much for me either. For the challenges of this life, in God alone do we find lasting comfort and eternal life.
The Rev. David Kendall-Sperry is the rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 45 W. Winter St., Delaware, and can be reached at 740-369-3175. He’s a member of the Delaware Ministerial Association and a life member of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, an Episcopal ministry to men and boys. He’s married and has three adult children and two grandchildren.