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LOWELL GRISHAM: A pastor's advice

Don’t worry about getting to the church on time this Christmas by Lowell Grisham | December 15, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

Please! Don't go to church on Christmas!

Yes, I'm a pastor. And I love the services at Christmas -- the music, the decorations, the wonderful story of Jesus' birth. I always prefer Luke's version in the King James Translation: "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." The whole church Christmas atmosphere moves me. But, I beg you, do not go to church on Christmas ... this year. Watch online. I know it's not the same, but it is safe. And the risk is just too great.

And please, please don't travel to see friends or relatives during the holiday. Just wait until next year. It won't be long.

The pandemic is exploding. More people are dying every day than we lost on 9-11. Hospitals are full and many are running out of ICU beds. As people spend more time indoors, infection risks increase.

I know everyone is tired of the precautions. But help is just around the corner. It looks like health care workers and nursing homes will get the vaccine in December and January. K-12 school employees and day care workers in January and February. High risk groups, especially those living in group homes in February and March. Then other high-risk groups. By June and July most of the population should be vaccinated. That's what I've heard. That's not too far away.

The job now: Stay alive until you are vaccinated. Just a few months more. Don't catch covid when we are so close to immunity.

Please don't let down your guard after hearing stories of people who recovered with minor symptoms. A recent study in Germany found that 78% of recovered covid patients had heart damage and 60% were left with heart inflammation. The mean age of the patients they studied was 49, and two-thirds of them recovered at home instead of going to the hospital. Even a "mild" case of covid can leave you with lasting health complications.

What to do?

  1. Eliminate spending time in a confined space outside your household where anyone is unmasked. No close, unmasked conversations, even outdoors. Don't eat or drink indoors with friends or at a restaurant. Order pickup and take it home. I've been learning to cook.
  2. Limit time indoors with others, even if everyone is wearing a mask. Masks aren't perfect.
  3. It's OK to walk or jog or bike outdoors without a mask. Just stay six feet apart. It is a risk, but not a big one, briefly to visit a grocery or other store with high ceilings. Wear your mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands afterward. But, it's much better just to order pickup or delivery.

Right now we need congressional relief. Millions are unemployed or underemployed because of covid. They risk homelessness, hunger and the stresses that accompany a lack of money. Families like mine don't need a $600 check from the government, but people facing eviction do need help right now; unemployed neighbors need money to live on. We've asked restaurants and bars to close or limit customers for the public good. We need to make sure their workers get compensated for their sacrifices.

This infection has exposed some deep cracks in our society. We have some things to fix.

It is now abundantly obvious that everyone needs access to affordable health care. A infectious pandemic shows us that health is a public issue, not just an individual matter. Our nation is way behind other countries in our commitment to a strong public health system. Other countries with robust public health services faced this virus with much better outcomes than we did.

The pandemic exposed once again the wide gulf between the haves and the have nots. If Americans are going to be able to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we must address chronic poverty and the structures that block universal access to housing, food, health care, safety and quality education.

It has become a maxim to say that a crisis is also an opportunity. In a profound way, the covid virus has reminded us we all belong to one another. There is something beautiful and loving about seeing everyone wearing a mask, moving respectfully in a six-foot dance around one another, honoring and praying for our health care workers and other essential servants.

Keep loving your neighbor as yourself and this crisis will end. The time of opportunity has begun.

Lowell Grisham is a retired Episcopal priest who lives in Fayetteville. Email him at [email protected]


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