Christian Life Resources Advisement on the COVID-19 Coronavirus
[Mar. 16, 2020 – Christian Life Resources] The world is facing the biggest health crisis of our time, and it provides the Christian community the opportunity to demonstrate prudence, courage, and Christ-like concern for others.
Understand the Crisis
COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a virus that causes respiratory issues. Its most common manifestation is the common cold. Some strains of coronavirus are far more serious like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). SARS broke out in China in 2002-2003 resulting in more than 8,000 cases and 774 deaths. MERS broke out in Saudi Arabia in 2014, infecting nearly 700 people; it resulted in 282 deaths.
The current strain of a coronavirus is called COVID-19. “CO” stands for “corona,” “VI” stands for “virus,” and “19” stands for the year the first cases were discovered. COVID-19 has genetic similarities to the dangerous SARS virus of 2002-2003.
Both SARS and MERS were relatively regional outbreaks. COVID-19 is global. It was first discovered in Wuhan, China and has spread throughout the world, essentially doubling the number of cases every 24 days. As of March 15, 2020, there were 153,523 cases throughout the world with 5,736 fatalities (approximately 3.7%). To date, 1,678 of those cases were diagnosed in the United States, and there have been 41 deaths (approximately 2.44%). The number of cases in the United States has doubled every four days.
How This Compares to Annual Influenza Rates
We are most familiar with the annual flu season in which residents are encouraged to get their flu vaccine to reduce the chances of being infected. On average the influenza vaccine (which changes annually in anticipation of different types of flu viruses that may be predominant) is 40% to 60% effective in preventing the affliction.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses among Americans, resulting in between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010. On average, fatalities from influenza occur in less than .2% of the cases. As mentioned above, COVID-19 has a current fatality rate of 2.44%.
One lesson learned from Wuhan, China is that the most vulnerable population involving the dangers of COVID-19 are individuals over 60 years of age and anyone with a compromised immunity. There is also concern that pregnant women could be at a higher than normal danger.
Children, on the other hand, have shown that while they can be carriers of the virus, it typically does not have much of a negative effect on them. Keeping children home historically has reduced the socialization that occurs in school and may mitigate the spread of the virus. Again, even if they contract the virus, it has not shown to be particularly harmful to them compared with others with whom they may have contact.
Burdened Health Care System
Last week the Washington Post ran a concerning article about the burden COVID-19 will place on the health care system. Without burying you in the numbers (you can read the entire article), three paragraphs from that article communicate the concern:
The United States has an estimated 924,100 hospital beds, according to a 2018 American Hospital Association survey, but many are already occupied by patients at any one time. And the United States has 46,800 to 64,000 medical intensive-care unit (ICU) beds, according to the AHA. (There are an additional 51,000 ICU beds specialized for cardiology, pediatrics, neonatal, burn patients and others.)
A moderate pandemic would mean 1 million people needing hospitalization and 200,000 needing intensive care, according to a Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security report last month. A severe pandemic would mean 9.6 million hospitalizations and 2.9 million people needing intensive care.
Now, factor in how stretched-thin U.S. hospitals already are during a normal, coronavirus-free week handling usual illnesses: patients with cancer and chronic diseases, those walking in with blunt-force trauma, suicide attempts and assaults. It’s easy to see why experts are warning that if the pandemic spreads too widely, clinicians could be forced to ration care and choose which patients to save.
The United States has just under 170,000 ventilators. If the COVOID-19 pandemic continues to grow without any serious effort in slowing its spread, we could be hospitalizing more patients in need of ventilator support than we have ventilators. Again, this is a potential predicament of having to ration health care and choosing some patients over others to save.
The Christian’s Confidence
It is in our nature to be frightened. Do not be! Consider the words of King David:
The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
When considering the boldness with which Paul spoke about being a child of God (Romans 8:31-39) and the comfort we have drawn for centuries from the 23rd Psalm, there is nothing to fear here. That is not what this is all about.
Our present and our eternity is secured by the cross of Jesus Christ. He who knew no sin became sin for us. Our salvation is assured, and we have the promise that all will work for the good of those who love God. We live in the shadow of bloodied cross and empty tomb. Life holds nothing that is stronger than God’s commitment to us. Crises like this are opportunities for us to demonstrate our faith and reflect his love for us.
The two great commands given to us by Christ are to love God and to love others (Matthew 22:37-39). How we do that can vary – that is part of Christian freedom. Our love for God is best expressed when we face these crises – with confidence in who we are because of Christ and without fear or worry. The way we love our neighbor is detailed with such instructions as:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3–5)
Our mindset is to place the concerns of others ahead of our own. That most often involves sacrificing. It involves changing the way we do things for the sake of others. It typically involves more inconvenience. Yet, we are compelled by the love we know from Christ.
Dealing with Cynicism
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), working with medical leaders from around the world, have been and continue to give updates on how we can best respond to this crisis in a manner that protects the most people. Initially, many of us felt that this matter was blown out of proportion. As each day passes the evidence that this is a true crisis becomes more compelling. While all of us have opinions on how bad things are and how bad things can get, few of us have the credentials of the experts of the CDC.
Often, when we face personal health crises, we look to medical professionals and trust them, often without question, to counsel us in how to best care for our own lives. In light of Scripture’s encouragement to humility and putting others first (e.g., Philippians 2), it behooves us to heed the counsel of doctors and other experts in regard to how our choices and behavior affect the well-being of others. These professionals are not just experts in looking out for our interests; they are looking out for others’ interests, as well, and we do well to follow their lead.
What Should We Do?
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. It is most commonly transmitted by breathing. When sharing common space with others, you share the potential of transmitting or receiving a virus entrapped in microscopic water molecules that float around us. Yes, the virus can be found in saliva transmitted through a common drinking glass, or it can become airborne and infect your lungs.
For that reason, the CDC has recommended no gatherings of 50 people or more at one time through the end of April. The White House recently shrank that number to 10. That means no worship services for most of us, and we will certainly not be able to celebrate Holy Week and Easter as we are accustomed to. That is hard to take, but truth be told, you don’t need 50 people, or 10 people, to spread this virus. You just need one person sharing the same breathable air with someone who is infected.
There is no cure for this virus. A possible vaccine is estimated to take 9-12 months. At best, symptoms can be managed and, for those over the age of 60 or with compromised immune systems, the virus has a significantly higher fatality rate.
As congregations, we are challenged to find a way to serve our members in non-traditional ways. The tug of our long-standing observances during Holy Week and Easter can be strong, but a stronger concern is looking out for others. We strongly recommend suspending worship services and social activities until the end of April or unless the CDC changes its instructions.
To the extent possible, avoid going to common places where there is a greater risk of sharing the air with those who are already infected. Again, this is especially important for those who are older or in compromised health.
Individually, it is time to use home delivery services. It is time for us to seek out the aging in our communities and neighborhoods and assure that they are well. Those who are younger and healthier can run errands that require going out in public. We can help them to order items online. This is the sacrificing on our part for the betterment of others – putting their concerns ahead of our own.
Finally, never forget that you interact with people who may not enjoy the health you do. With COVID-19 you can carry the virus and not show symptoms. But when you share the air with those who are elderly or with a weakened immune system, you can endanger their health. Interact only when necessary and with extreme caution.
No virus is as devastating as sin has been in our lives. It has brought this hardship on the world, and it also broke a beautiful relationship with God. Yet, it is during this time of the year we learn about God’s persistence in his love for us. Even against the insurmountable stain of sin God solved the problem with the sacrifice of his own Son. As we seek to show love to him and to others, let God’s love in Christ move you and inspire you – knowing full well it may involve sacrifice for the sake of others.
 https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm (accessed March 16, 2020)
 https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/13/coronavirus-numbers-we-really-should-be-worried-about/ (accessed March 16, 2020)