On 12/8/21, the board voted in favor of the C19 Task Force’s recommendation to move from a phased re-opening plan to a safety model that maximizes layering of mitigation strategies, allowing individuals to choose their own level of risk. Layering means combining mitigation strategies such as masks, vaccination, distancing, and ventilation to increased protection from transmission. We expect that the case counts will continue to go up and down for a while, and it has become less feasible to open and close and open and close based on fluctuating numbers.

The vote to implement this plan is a commitment from GUUF’s leadership to provide multi-platform programming going forward. Multi-platform programming includes virtual and in person events, as well as maximizing access by using space creatively (holding small meetings in large open spaces, for example). For example, maintaining limited capacity, masked, distanced seating in the sanctuary PLUS the livestream PLUS the watch party in the Fellowship Hall would create multiple points of access on Sunday mornings depending on a family or individual’s needs.

Overall, the Task Force feels that the more immediate reporting, the availability of country wide data, and the ability to set risk levels into the color codes makes the use of the COVIDActNow metrics a better, more useful tool for our risk assessment.

Explanation of Criteria Changes

At this point, the COVID19 Task Force’s main role is one of helping the congregation to assess their risk and act accordingly.  

With the advent of widespread vaccination and boosters availability, the overall community risk drops according to the vaccination rate in the community.  

Importantly, each vaccinated person’s risk has dropped considerably primarily for serious infection, hospitalization and death.  We must remember however that vaccination was never shown or expected to efficiently prevent vaccinated persons from getting COVID infection.  

Particularly for the recent variants Delta and Omicron, data shows vaccine effectiveness with two doses is only about 35%, increasing to around 75% with booster.  After beginning to occur in December 2021, the Omicron variant has become the predominant variant, reaching over 50% of COVID infections in the US by December 25, 2021, and reaching over 78% of COVID infections in the Southeast region.   With full vaccination, data has shown most cases of COVID in vaccinated persons are mild severity.

The GUUF COVID Task Force has recommended that the COVID Act Now (covidactnow.org) site can be a more useful tool in assessing covid risk than the data that is currently being reported on the SC DHEC site.

The absolute values of the COVID Act Now numbers appear to be lower than what SCDHEC was reporting. This is because COVID Act Now reports over the last week, while DHEC reports over the last two weeks.

We are finding  the COVID Act Now reporting to be more up to date especially with the rapid changes occurring with COVID cases.  Also we are finding looking at the daily case rate gives us a more up to date number allowing us to assess risk on a more current immediate basis.  

In addition, the COVID Act Now reporting includes the entire country, allowing us to assess our risk should we look to travel elsewhere.  It is relatively easy to then look up another county’s current (last 7 day) incidence rate and thus the risk in that county. COVIDActNow uses additional criteria to help us assess our risk.  

  • Infection rate:  This criterion can help us to assess our risk by noting how fast infections spread.  The metric estimates how many people each infected person will infect.  At a number >1, the infections are spreading in the community, thus showing the immediate risk of infection.
  • ICU capacity:  This criterion assesses a community’s ability to respond to increasing severe infection requiring use of an ICU.  A higher number, particularly >85, might necessitate further use of preventing spread – such as closing businesses, schools, transportation, etc.  This metric also gives us some indication of infection severity.  Current infections appear to be less severe – even with the rapidly increasing daily infections, ICU capacity has remained level or decreased.
  • Percent (%) vaccinated:  This metric gives us an induction of the risk in a particular reporting area/community.  The higher the vaccination rate in a community, the lower risk of infection.  
  • Vulnerability:  This metric estimates a community likelihood of having serious infection events.  This risk is estimated based on several socioeconomic factors such as age, population density, transportation resources, income, hospital beds and other such factors.  This can help us assess our risk when going to a community – some obvious ones being prison, nursing homes, etc.

Risk Levels and Corresponding Activities

Based on CDC recommendations [link] vaccination is highly recommended for all who are eligible, and we would remind everyone that, while vaccines do provide a significant level of immunity, vaccination does not provide 100% protection.

Do not attend if you have symptoms or have had a known exposure. If you have COVID19, please do not attend until you are cleared by a doctor or have a negative test result.

The Sanctuary and the Fellowship Hall will remain open on Sunday mornings with masks and distancing, the Livestream broadcast also available.

We are committed to providing both virtual and in person activities to maximize access for people of all ages regardless of health status or personal risk tolerance.

“Yes” indicates: Masks Required.

BOARD ROOMyesyesnono
CHOIR ROOM (No Singing)yesyesnono