Letter to the Editor: Church and COVID-19

Dear Fellow Weakley Countians,
Four members of Westmore Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee, have died recently from COVID-19. Three, or perhaps all four, of these victims attended a June 21, 2020, service there where, as the pastor put it, the virus “slipped in through the choir.” The church did not require masks. So many other members were infected at this service that the minister said he could not keep count, as he himself became ill. Likely, many other community members were infected by these infected church members.
This service and many other church services, birthday parties and other gatherings where multiple persons are infected are called “super spreaders.” It was a super-spreader birthday party in Nashville that caused the severe outbreak there that occurred during the early part of this crisis. These super-spreader events are now preventable. People should not be congregating unless it is absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, attendees must wear masks and socially distance. Singing when congregated is a particularly risky activity and should be avoided. Even talking spreads the virus. All business owners and managers, ministers and other people who are responsible for places where people gather take heed. You are at least, ethically and I suspect, legally obligated to keep your business, places of worship, etc. from becoming super-spreader locations. You must ensure that persons who congregate on your premises are masked and that they are socially-distanced. You must protect the public from your employees, your employees from the public and both from each other. You must encourage those who are sick or are at high risk for death, should they become infected, to not enter your premises.
We as individuals must wear masks and socially distance when we are around others, particularly inside. We must continue to wash our hands frequently. If we develop symptoms of COVID-19 or are exposed to anyone who is ill from or tested positive for COVID-19, we must contact our health care providers, isolate ourselves and be tested.
COVID-19 cases in our county are increasing at an alarming rate. Reported cases have risen from 26 to 133 in just a few weeks. My feelings have turned from concern to despair due to having people whom I love become seriously ill and die from this disease. None of what we are going through now had to happen. Europe has opened up its economies without the problems that we have seen here in the USA. They simply have better leadership and individual resolve than we have. The baseball player Chili Davis is quoted as saying, “Growing older is mandatory. Growing up is optional.” We must decide it is time to grow up and take this pandemic seriously.
Some of you who read this letter will say, “He can’t tell me what to do.” This is true. I am not telling you what to do, but am pleading with you to do what is right and necessary, before it is too late. I am pleading with you on behalf of my neighbors here in Weakley County, my patients, my coworkers, my family and myself. We are all at risk from our negligent behavior. Too many have already suffered too much.
It is a blessing to be a Weakley Countian and to count you as my neighbors.
Sincerely,
Michael W. Hinds, MD
Martin

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