The Rev. Dr. Maria Evans is serving as the Interim Rector at Christ Church in Rolla. She is also a pathologist, board certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, a laboratory medical director, and has served on hospital infection control committees for over 30 years.
During the coronavirus outbreak, The Rev. Dr. Maria is offering her expertise to help us understand and make our way through this unprecedented experience. If you have a question you'd like to ask The Rev. Dr. Maria, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's my understanding that this virus is significantly less lethal than our normal influenza outbreaks. So why did we shut down everything, including our churches, when this virus causes death in such a small percentage of cases?
Now that we are over three months into this pandemic, it's easy to forget why we shut down in the first place, and not everyone had the same information about the human cost if we had headed into this with no mitigation at all.
Although many models existed at the outset of this outbreak, the one most highly regarded by multiple public health agencies and services was the one published on March 16 by the Imperial College in London
. This model used some of the most state-of-the-art means to collect data and some of the world's best epidemiologists. Their model predicted that if we did nothing in the US to mitigate COVID-19 risk, 81% of people would have been infected and 2.2 million people would have died. Our existing health care system would have been overloaded from a surge of cases and a lack of everything from personal protective equipment to ventilators.
Of course, we did initiate some mitigation intervention, and as a result, we have not seen numbers that approach the Imperial College's "doomsday scenario." The problem is, "We can't see what didn't happen." Outside of major cities, so far the health care system hasn't been overwhelmed. So, because people weren't dying in plain sight nationwide, it's easy to feel this was overblown. Although we need to mitigate its effect further, we've been successful to some degree because we did shut down and we are at least exercising some caution going forward.
Also, we have to consider morbidity as well as mortality. Death is not the only sequela of COVID. We are now learning that many survivors will be chronically ill in a variety of ways for a long time, perhaps for the rest of their lives. Permanent lung damage, kidney failure, blood clotting disorders, strokes, heart disease, and even neurological problems are showing up in survivors. It's yet to be seen how many reduced years of life and reduced quality of life COVID will leave in its wake, in addition to the 123,000 deaths we have had so far.
No doubt--it's been a really rough 3 months, and it's been especially hard for those who have not been able to work as this new landscape develops. Faith communities have been rocked by this in a way that hasn't been seen for 100 years.
Yet, as Episcopalians, we are fortunate that we can lean into our beloved Book of Common Prayer to anchor us in these distressing times--particularly through the use of the Daily Office. When we can't be together in person, we at least have the knowledge that when we say Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, or Compline alone, someone out there is saying it too. Clearly, it's not the same as being in church on Sundays. Yet the speed at which congregations adapted to the technology of the "new normal" has been astounding--even a miracle.
We are an Easter people, and that is not to be taken lightly. It's awful what this pandemic has done to lives, jobs, and churches...and at the same time, it's opening us to new ways to think, new ways to act, and new ways to live.
The Rev. Dr. Maria Evans
who doubles as
Maria L. Evans, MD, FCAP, FASCP
This material is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. The Episcopal Church and its affiliates do not provide any healthcare services and, therefore, cannot guarantee any results or outcomes. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with any questions about your personal healthcare, including diet and exercise.