St. Stephen's is temporarily going back to requiring masks for indoor gatherings for all people over the age of 2, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Back in April the infection rate in our community dropped back into the blue "Low" infection risk and we were happy to remove the mask requirement for vaccinated people. At the time we told you we would keep a close eye on the infection rate and let you know if the risk rose again and we would have to re-introduce safety measures. As much as we hoped it would not come to pass, the infection rate rose back into the red "High" infection risk category and we are asking all people at St. Stephen's to return to wearing masks until the infection rate drops again.
I am here for you and ready to respond to any questions you might have. I have provided a few answers based on questions I have already received:
What information is St. Stephen's basing this decision on
I have provided a quick information sheet on the status of the pandemic in Jefferson County here. We base our safety measures on infection risk in our area. As the risk goes up or down we continue to respond accordingly. Please note that a big part of what has changed since April is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to mutate and the newest variant is more infectious than before.
I'm vaccinated. Why should I wear a mask
Unfortunately, it appears that the new variant of the virus is not only more infectious, it is also easier for even vaccinated people to spread the virus to the unvaccinated (including our children and members with weaker immune systems). The newest guidance that even vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors. More information can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
How does this affect Sunday mornings
We are not canceling in-person worship (in fact, wearing masks will prevent an infection spread at St. Stephen's that would force us to cancel in-person worship). We will still have services at 8:00 am and 10:00 am. We will still be able to sing, have communion, and share the peace. The only thing that is changing is we are temporarily wearing masks indoors until the infection rate goes back down
When will we be able to not wear masks again
We knew this was a "two steps forward, one step back" situation all along. We're taking a temporary step back and look forward to steps ahead in the future. Keep watching the infection numbers with us. As soon as Jefferson County drops from the red "High" risk back down to the yellow "Moderate" or blue "Low" risk, we expect not to need to require masks anymore. I'm tired of wearing them, y'all are tired of wearing them, and we'll stop requiring them as soon as it is safe to do so