Encountering COVID-19 – Reflections by Fr Alexander Kurien

OCP News Service – Fr. Alexander Kurien – 12/3/2020

Dear Friends,

These are simple things we don’t think about too often – it is our religious commitment and the right to attend religious gatherings or a wedding or a funeral. Children have their rights to learning by attending schools. But, things are no longer that simple. Changes to our routines are frustrating and know they cause much anxiety! Since yesterday, 200 more cases have been confirmed in the U.S. – now totals well over 1,000 confirmed cases. Please take appropriate measures to protect you and your family. I am also at great risk as I commute (2 hours one way) every day using public transportation. German chancellor stated today that, up to 70 percent of people will get the coronavirus. Let us continue to pray for our world population. God can, as He has done throughout history, do miracles beyond human imagination. Let us pray, trust in God, and hope for the best. Read this very innocent story – which will make us think diligently before attending a public gathering of any kind.

Alexandria Health Department Urges Self-Monitoring for Potential COVID-19 Exposure at Immanuel Chapel at Virginia Theological Seminary.

On March 10, 2020, the Alexandria Health Department was notified that a resident of Washington, D.C., who now has a confirmed case of the COVID-19 coronavirus spent time at the Immanuel Chapel of the Virginia Theological Seminary. The Alexandria Health Department’s investigation and consultation with the Virginia Department of Health have determined that all congregants and visitors to the Immanuel Chapel between February 26 and March 4 may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Alexandria Health Department recommends that anyone who visited the Immanuel Chapel on those dates monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days from their last visit.

Self-monitoring includes checking body temperature twice a day and monitoring for symptoms of cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or temperature higher than 100.4 F. Any individual who was potentially exposed at Immanuel Chapel and has any of these symptoms, or develops them within 14 days of visiting, should notify the Alexandria Health Department. If they develop these symptoms, they should also self-isolate and limit contact with others. The entire world population should stay updated and informed about COVID-19. China’s death toll climbs to 3,152; Italy’s with 631 (168 just in the last 24 hours) and Iran with 354. The global death toll across 120 countries raises to 4,500, over 125,000 cases have been confirmed, about 66,000 people have recovered. China did something like 200,000 tests per day. South Korea did about 15,000 tests per day. The United States has only done about 5,000 tests to date. Do you have a reason to be concerned? Of course, as a human – even with unwavering faith in God – you do! NIH confirmed today that approximately 1 million test kits will be available now for the U.S. population. This is great news.

Everyone can help prevent the spread of the illness with these everyday actions:
1. Wash your hands often by rubbing them together with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
3. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
4. Stay home when you are sick.
5. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Below is a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended preventative health actions as we all work individually to curb the potential spread of COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

A Word to Orthodox Christians
As Orthodox Christians, we know that God uses material means to communicate His blessings and presence to us. The grace-filled presence of Icons, Relics, Holy Water, blessing crosses, objects (such as flowers), and even the blessing hand of a priest, convey to the believer God’s grace and energy. The same material elements that can convey the blessings of God are also subject to the broken nature of our fallen world. Science and our God-given reason demand that we employ every means available to protect ourselves and our families against the spread of Coronavirus and any other disease. In a crisis such as this, we need to exercise vigilance as a community, lest our churches become points of transmission of the disease.

The sacrament of sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, is not simply a material element but the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we counsel those feeling unwell physically to refrain from liturgical assemblies until they are certain of their diagnosis. Taking the basic steps of wellness as recommended by the health authorities is not only sensible but wise and considerate of others. In truth, it is an act of love.

Fr Alexander is serving as the Deputy Associate Administrator and Executive Director of the Federal Real Property Council of the US government. He was recently appointed an expert in Human Trafficking Task Force under the Trump administration.

OCP News Service