When we began planning for VdC fall weekends in the spring, vaccinations were rising and cases were falling and we fully expected that trend to continue. Unfortunately, it has not. With almost half the population still unvaccinated and the delta variant dominant in both Indiana and Kentucky, the CDC is currently showing the level of transmission at the highest level throughout both states.
According to health officials and the CDC, several factors can contribute to the likelihood of attendees getting and spreading COVID-19 at large events. In combination, the following factors will create higher risk:
- Number of COVID-19 cases in your community—High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the event location or the locations the attendees are coming from increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Case levels are rising in all counties with most all Indiana and Kentucky counties in the two highest levels for number of daily cases and the case trend continues to rise. The positivity rate for Indiana is currently 18.8% and trending up.
- Setting of the event—Indoor events, especially in places with less ventilation, pose more risk than outdoor events. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more (over a 24-hour period) greatly increases the risk of becoming infected. Although we were planning for as many activities as possible outdoors, the weather is certainly a factor and sleeping and dining arrangements for social distancing remain challenging.
- Length of the event—Events that last longer pose more risk than shorter events. With 72 hours of togetherness, a VdC weekend poses a significant risk of transmitting the virus to others. The challenge of team members not able to attend due to recent exposure or sickness and the potential for someone on the weekend becoming ill are high. And team meetings pose the same risks.
- Number and crowding of people at the event – We have tried to find ways to social distance by working with “pods” and larger buildings, but what are we giving up in building relationships on the weekend with the higher risks?
- Behavior of attendees during an event—Can we even imagine a VdC weekend without singing?
A VdC weekend can’t be virtual.
The two primary reasons for canceling fall weekends are:
- The changes required right now force us away from the VDC culture – hugging, singing, close fellowship and more.
- The present COVID-19 climate prohibits us from conducting a weekend where pilgrims and team members can attend, or even consider attending, without concerns for their own personal well-being no matter what policies we may put into place.
We often say, “this isn’t the right time for this pilgrim”. Unfortunately, it is time to say, “this isn’t the right time for weekends”.