Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Over the past few days, many of us have paid close attention to reports of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. As of this writing, there is one confirmed case in the United States, though that number seems certain to grow.
While this is of obvious initial concern, I can’t help remembering the discovery of the Delta variant a year ago, and how it has not proven to be the dramatic development it seemed at first to be. Familiar precautions already in place for COVID-19 — masking, distancing and vaccines for those who want them — remained in place and proved generally effective. Unless something changes, I believe this is an appropriate and adequate response to the new Omicron variant as well.
In my messages to you regarding COVID-19, I have tried to avoid exceeding the limited area of my knowledge and competence. My two goals are primarily pastoral: to minimize both “actual risk” and “perceived risk.” In other words, it is important not only that you are safe when attending Mass or other parish activities, but that you feel reasonably safe and secure when doing so. I am not aware of a single person who has contracted COVID-19 from any parish-related activity since the onset of this pandemic. Your combined efforts in meeting both of these goals has been a key factor in what has been, to date, a perfect safety record here at SV.
For the common good of our shared community, I ask your continued cooperation and forbearance in maintaining current safeguards against COVID-19 and its variants until this pandemic is more clearly behind us.
Our weariness with COVID-19 should not obscure the fact that we are in an incomparably better, and safer, position now than we were during Advent and Christmas of 2020, when infection and death rates were at peak levels and our church remained closed. We now have several vaccines and boosters, widely regarded as safe and effective, and universally available to those who want them. The Sonoma County Department of Public Health states that at least 75% of Sonoma County residents have been fully vaccinated. New infections and deaths are now a tiny fraction of what they were a year ago. This alone is a cause for rejoicing, regardless of whatever differences of opinion individuals may have on other aspects of this pandemic.
In order to promote both actual and perceived safety for all our parishioners, current precautions (distancing, masks) will remain in place at least through the Christmas holidays, and as long thereafter as reasonably necessary. Video recording and posting of Masses will continue through the same period for those who continue to join us in prayer from home.
I hope this review of our proven safety measures in light of the new Omicron variant will put your hearts and minds at ease as we prepare to celebrate — in our church for the first time in two years — the birth of our Savior.
Fr. Bill Donahue