I caught the virus last week. No, no, no, not the new and potentially fatal coronavirus (COVID-19), but the much more common and not dangerous GKID-5 virus. Paulette and I spent the week caring for five of our grandchildren while their parents were traveling and I came home with a cold. Had I been thoughtful and aware, I could have avoided the GKID-5 virus. Surprisingly, the measures I could have taken to avoid the common and not dangerous GKID-5 virus are the same measures anyone can take to avoid the dangerous coronavirus.
The concern about the coronavirus is legitimate and growing so this week’s blog is about how we as a church community can limit its spread to us and to those around us. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the best way to prevent it is to avoid anyone who already has it. The CDC advises everyone not to travel to areas where the virus seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community. As of last week, that included China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
However, with nine fatalities (as of March 3) and 27 confirmed cases in Washington state, and now three presumptive cases in Oregon, the time for preventive measures in the NW is now.
The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may be possible that a person can get the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. The symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) may take up to two weeks to develop, and they seem to worsen in the second week of the illness.
So how can you avoid the coronavirus and protect others from it? Here’s some common but effective measures:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.• When you are sick, stay home from work, school, church, small group, Bible study, etc.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (or sleeve), then throw the tissue away.• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds after the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of coronavirus.
- If you develop suspicious symptoms, contact your healthcare provider right away.
There is yet no vaccine to prevent or cure coronavirus. Treatment consists of support, comfort, and care, unless the symptoms become severe enough to require hospitalization.
In the unlikely event that a health crisis develops in our area and restrictions are placed on public gatherings, our church may try to have a virtual gathering on-line through our Facebook page. The church office will provide details about that if it becomes necessary.
However, having said all of that, Christians have a centuries-old history not of avoiding sick people but of engaging them to provide support, comfort, and care. Plagues occasionally swept the cities of the Roman Empire during the first centuries of the Christian Church. While all who could left the city for the relative safety of the countryside, many Christians stayed to provide care for the ill in the name of Jesus, many contracting the illness themselves and some dying from it.
By taking precautions (see the list above) that were not available to those early Christians, we may be able to provide help, meals, encouragement, and prayer to neighbors and friends in the name of Jesus without the high risk they accepted. We should be alert to the health of those the Lord has put around us and be ready to be his hands, feet, and voice to them.
I can’t help but compare the coronavirus with true Christianity. They are both highly contagious and spread through person-to-person contact. The spread of both can be prevented by avoiding contact with people who have it. Genuine, biblical Christianity also has a specific set of symptoms: love, joy, peace, patience, self-control. If you have it, the symptoms will be obvious.
There are differences, of course. We don’t want coronavirus to spread. We do want genuine faith in Jesus to spread far and wide. Can we become a community where the real disease of faith in him spreads easily and sustainably? The authorities are not sure how the coronavirus began. But there is no doubt that Christianity began when Jesus allowed himself to be infected with the disease of our sinfulness so that he could destroy it on the cross and provide a permanent cure for us. The outcome of the coronavirus may on occasion be death. The outcome of the divine disease of Christianity is always life, eternal life.