It was one year ago today that every Catholic diocese in the United States closed its churches because of the coronavirus outbreak. We've all been through quite a roller coaster ride this past year so Gus asks listeners how things have changed in their church. Have they reopened or have they remained closed? What are the mask requirements? How do you feel about them?
Later, Bob Dunning calls in to the program to talk about how things are going on the West Coast in terms of COVID and social distancing. Gus also asks him about Bob Dunning Day, which will be held virtually on Friday, April 9th. Bob has been writing a column for the Davis Enterprise newspaper in Davis, California for 50 years and is being recognized by his hometown. Bob talks with Gus about his career and how the newspaper industry has changed over the last 50 years.
Hi Gus, I don’t always get to hear your show but do listen fairly frequently. Caught you on a “repeat” last week and must say my heart sank a bit. It was a conversation you had with a caller (Kim, maybe?) about dropping mask restrictions and people feeling safe in Churches.
Gus, I’m going to (lovingly) call you out a bit. I’m in healthcare and having been following this pandemic and the fall out from it closely. While I agree that creating hope and as much normality as possible is important, it must be balanced with the needed measures to secure that hope. There is a chasm of difference between Covid and say, flu or deaths from auto accidents and the like. The difference is primarily in the communicability of Covid and its general death rate. Let me give you just a couple of comparison numbers. If you are already familiar with these you may “fast forward” …but please don’t stop reading.
1st: communicability is rated by a mathematical figure known as R-naught. That number would describe how many people would be infected by a single person with an illness. For flu, an infected person is likely to infect 1 to 2 other individuals R-0 is 1-2. For Covid that R-o number is as high as 5.7 (one person will infect up to 5+ people). The relevance of this is that even as our overall infection rate in the US comes down, if you let your guard down too much, it can ramp up quickly and start the entire cycle again.
While some things are probably safe to open up somewhat, mask wearing should be the LAST thing to go. In part because it is the easiest to do and its effectiveness is high. It would be far better to allow some increased capacity to churches but keep masking in place. This is the science of it and the Catholic Church has always loved actual science (ask Thomas Aquinas :)
This brings me to my heartache hearing you speak with Kim. You responded to her as if your need to wear a mask was linked to her “being comfortable” and therefore not your problem. While you didn’t say “not your problem” I have to tell you your tone came across that way….sorry brother. But here is the actuality: the science says that while we are getting closer to normality, the risk still exists and, contrary to your sense of it, the risk is still not “reasonable risk”. That R-o number and the active infection rate even in your home state tell us this.
Based on this epidemiology, we have not yet obtained numbers that can be called ’reasonable".
That means that your wearing a mask is not about making Kim and others “comfortable” it is about keeping them safe. It is about love of neighbor.
We might also consider the fact that more people can come to the Holy Mass if they all agree to wear masks for a bit longer. If you drop the mask mandate you must reduce capacity within the Church. In that context, mask wearing is not too much of a sacrifice to allow more people to come into the Churches.
If you think I’m behind on my numbers or demographics, let me give these stats to you: The day after this program aired, your home state of FL lost 53 people to Covid…in one day…last Friday.
You home state of FL lost as many people in one year of Covid as the entire Nation lost in 2019 due to flu. While our deaths and infections are coming down and more people are getting vaccinated, praise God, it is the communicability that makes this infection a continuing threat (for now). Another stat for you: In one year an average of 55million flu infections will kill about 62,000 people. This year 31 million Covid infections killed 970,000. We are so close. Hold on and keep humble and vigilant. And please, please, don’t ever make the “Kims” of the world feel like their health and safety is not as important as your comfort and freedom. Jesus points to something quite different.