A called meeting for NGFM was held 8/21/21 to discuss policies and protocols for protecting friends/ Friends from COVID. A summary and review of protocols followed by a number of questions were discussed. Friends were generally supportive of our current course. If COVID cases stay the same, we plan to continue meeting for semi-programmed worship out of doors  until the weather becomes less hospitable. All are also reminded that our COVID subgroup will continue to meet monthly via ZOOM  to discuss specific questions and to review policies. If anyone has a question for this group please notify Jennifer Schaal, Janie Foy or Kat Rice, so that question can be addressed by the subgroup.

Cases of COVID and hospitalizations continue to  increase this week in NC with the  Delta variant still driving this outbreak. There has been an increase from 215  new COVID cases per day 7/1/21  to 8,620  new   COVID cases in NC  8/26/21.  The state’s positivity rate of COVID tests has  also continued to  rise and be  much higher than the benchmark for the state(14.5% this week with a benchmark of 5%).  Hospitalizations have increased statewide  from 571 on 7/16/21 to 3509 on 8/30//21 with 26% of these patients in ICUs. An additional sobering statistic reported by the state is that unvaccinated people in NC were 15 times more likely to die from COVID than vaccinated people during the four week period ending 8/21/21.

Vaccination rates  have inched up  but still only 50% of the NC’s total population  and  52% of Guilford County’s total population (both numbers including  all children)are fully vaccinated according to the NC health department dashboard. The City of Greensboro currently mandates  masks indoors at City facilities regardless of vaccination status . Governor Cooper  recommends (but ultimately leaves up to local school boards) that masks be used in school systems K-12.  The number of children diagnosed with COVID is now increasing, with children accounting for 22.4% of reported cases nationwide in the last week(American Academy of Pediatrics information)

Vaccination continues to be the best way to protect against severe COVID infection and has been proven far safer than infection with the coronavirus. The Pfizer vaccine is now fully approved by the FDA for use in those 16 and older. Vaccinations are continuing to be shown effective in decreasing illness and hospitalization even in persons who get breakthrough cases of COVID after vaccination, with new studies reported confirming this in the last week. Masking continues to be a good option to increase safety in moderate or large groups out doors and in indoor  public settings.

Vaccine options remain much the same as in the last few months. Many doctor’s offices now offer vaccines in their offices, and the Cone and Guilford County web sites continue to offer information and appointments.  Cone is also now tracking the number of hospitalizations in their hospital at its website, as well as how many of their COVID patients are vaccinated.  Cone and the Guilford Health Department are requesting that appointments be made for vaccinations since the number of people being vaccinated has increased.  There continues to be an option for at-home vaccination. Caregivers, providers and individuals can schedule an at-home vaccination by calling 1-866-303-0026 or registering at www.ptrc.org/covid, which will trigger a call to schedule a vaccination.  The Biden administration has signaled that it will be authorizing vaccine boosters.  Currently, those with immunocompromising conditions are eligible for a booster dose 6 months after their last dose; boosters for other vaccinated people will likely be recommended 6-8 months after their last dose, though this guidance has yet to be finalized.

We will continue to hold semi-programmed meetings for worship on Sundays at 10 a.m. in person outdoors and simultaneously by Zoom and Facebook Live.  This remains the safest way for a large group of people, vaccinated and unvaccinated, to be together.  If bad weather threatens, semi-programmed meeting for worship will take place only virtually.  (Check the website or Facebook page for weather-related changes.)   Friends are reminded of the precautions we are recommending, including social distancing between family groups and masking when circulating around the outdoor group and in the building. We will continue to hold un-programmed meetings for worship in person outdoors on Sundays from 9 – 9:45 a.m.; these meetings are typically quite small and can move to the meeting room in the event of inclement weather.

Please see the attached document for guidance about use of other spaces in the meeting house for small group activities.

Thank you for your care and patience.

NGFM COVID Medical Advisors