By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
As of the afternoon of March 10, COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, had infected more than 100,000 people worldwide, with about 800 cases nationwide and 21 cases in the Washington Metropolitan area, and had killed about 25 people in the United States and 4,000 people total. With the more than 20 cases in the D.C. region and three confirmed cases in the nation’s capital, District leaders are working to ensure that Washingtonians remain healthy and prepared during this widespread epidemic.
“We see what’s happening across the country and certainly we want to put our city in the best position to respond and to care for people… and to make the best decisions we can for our students and staff and all the staff of D.C. government,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
A commuter wears a face mask in the New York City transit system. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The first reported case in the District came with a potentially extensive domino effect. The rector of Christ Church, Georgetown, a large Episcopal congregation in Northwest, D.C., and their organist both tested positive for COVID-19. As the rector and organist have major contact with parishioners, Mayor Bowser and DC Health are asking for anyone who attended the Georgetown church Feb. 24 and Feb. 28- March 3, be quarantined for 14 days. This request requires quarantines for hundreds of people.
“It is a DC Health recommendation that is consistent and grounded in the science of the CDC. There are very clear guidelines during disease transmission when we are trying to control the spread about what we should do to manage risk of exposure,” said a DC Health representative during a press conference held by the Mayor on March 9.
“We have identified Feb. 24 and Feb. 28 through March 3– that is when our case was symptomatic– so anyone who was potentially exposed during that time, out of precaution and best practices for disease control is the recommendation,” the DC Health representative added.
The Episcopal Diocese of Washington (EDOW) kicked into high gear after learning the location of the first confirmed case of coronavirus in D.C. On March 8, Christ Church, Georgetown was closed for services and on March 9, EDOW Bishop Mariann Edgar-Budde sent out a letter with clear instructions for churches to remain safe and avoid the spread of coronavirus. Then on March 11, Budde released a statement cancelling all services and closing church offices, effective the close of business of that day until March 25.
“I am painfully aware of the significance of this change, and what it will mean for people all across this region. I understand the spiritual and financial implications, the headaches and frustrations, and I share this disappointment that we, as worshipping communities, will not be able to gather,” Budde wrote in a statement.
The EDOW Bishop said she came to this decision after consultation with Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and said she hoped to assist in giving congregations the capacity for online and by-phone worship.
“My goal in cancelling services and providing a virtual option for all in the Diocese is to free up the time and energy of clergy and lay leadership across the diocese to assess the pastoral needs of your people and to reach out to civic partners, so that we aid in the care of our communities,” Budde said.
In her final words Bishop Budde offered comfort, hope and scripture.
“We are indeed in uncharted waters — not just as a Diocese, but as a country and as a global human family. As people of faith, these are the times for us to draw closer to God and to look to the scriptures, where we can find comfort and reassurance,” she said.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 37-39