Since March, the LA archdiocese has been responding to our faith community’s needs by designating a “Response Team” to stay informed and educated on the impacts of the COVID-19 virus and guidelines established by the counties of Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. The team is responsible for helping parishes, schools, cemeteries, and mortuaries with managing any positive cases from employees, family members, or visitors to any of our facilities. While the Response Team’s initial goal was to centralize information and provide uniformed responses, the work quickly evolved into an accompaniment and evangelization opportunity.
Think back to the beginning of the pandemic and all the uncertainty that was going on. First, we were told that wearing a mask did very little to prevent the virus’s spread. Later that changed, and masks are now a must-have accessory for being out in public. People were quick to point out the inconsistency. The medical community admitted that much of what they are learning is very new. Experts continue asking for the public’s patients and understanding. It was a challenge to keep up with so much change, and our Response Team understood the importance of being a trusted source, especially during a time of apprehension and uncertainty. The team combed over as many articles as possible to provide the best recommendations to our faith leaders, calling many people back as quickly as possible, even on weekends and holidays.
As COVID positive cases started coming in, the Response Team collected reports and analyzed the information. At first, it was tough trying to understand how people were getting sick. It also appears that the first strains of the virus were much more intense. It felt like people were hit by the virus much harder back then, with many requiring hospitalization. Luckily, recent cases have been milder, but we also understand that the danger persists. With winter here and the numbers increasing once again, we wait to see how the virus will affect those in high-risk categories.
Despite all of this, it’s evident that most people will contract the virus from somebody they know. A family member or friend who did not realize they had the virus. In many instances, people have contracted the virus from being together inside enclosed areas or at social events where we tend to let our guard down. Those people will become exposed and bring the virus home or will show up at work, days later, unknowingly contagious to anyone else in their daily life.
Another reaction we’ve noticed is people who run out and get tested the minute they hear somebody they’ve been interacting with has the virus. Getting tested immediately after being exposed to somebody with the virus will not yield a positive test result. The virus needs a few days to incubate within your immune system. A person develops symptoms 5 days after being infected. Still, symptoms can appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection. This is why the social distancing protocols are so important, especially with people you see on a day-to-day basis. There’s no way to tell if somebody has been infected, so we need to treat everyone as if they may have the virus.
Thankfully, our parishes and schools have done a phenomenal job of protecting our community. Monitoring the cases has given us a tremendous amount of insight. It provides the people working at our facilities with the support they need to manage the situation. Many of the administrators tasked with reporting these cases are understandably nervous and concerned, not just for the safety of the community but for their own personal safety as well. These calls from our Response Team have proven to be moments of guidance and accompaniment. Dealing with stressful situations is the most opportune time to stay centered in our faith and help those around us do the same.
We must also recognize our clergy and spiritual leaders who have all stepped up, going above and beyond to ensure that Christ is present in all our lives. The constant changes in protocols and procedures have not been easy, especially when dealing with the added pressure from people who may feel frustrated with the reality we’re facing.
As the season of Advent begins, and we all start gathering with those we love, let’s make sure to remember how important it is to care for one another. Let’s pray that solutions on the horizon will soon help us get past this difficult time and back to a new appreciation for our shared sense of faith and community.