Some thoughts on the virus as we head back to church

My ward in Colorado is starting Sacrament meetings on Sunday for the first time since March. I am in the Elder’s Quorum presidency, so I have been involved with planning the return.

Sacrament meeting will look very different. Everybody over two years old must wear a mask. There will be greeters and counters as you walk into the building. We cannot have more than 99 people at Sacrament, which means we will have two Sacrament meetings for our ward every Sunday, and people will only be able to take Sacrament (at least for now) every other Sunday. Many at risk people will continue to take Sacrament at home. Once you get into the chapel, you must maintain social distancing from other families. No hymnals will be available — you must look up the lyrics on-line.

The return of Sacrament meeting will be a huge blessing for our ward, but especially for those who do not have priesthood in the home and may have missed taking the Sacrament regularly the last few months. And I want to make it clear that the strange new world of our Sacrament meetings is mandated by our local county. County officials have make it clear they will be monitoring churches to make sure they abide by these rules, and our stake leaders have done an excellent job adapting to the county guidelines. So, just in case there is any doubt: I support what our church is doing.

The Church is adapting to the societal response. If we want to find culprits for the economic devastation, the suppression of civil liberties and the rampant fear-mongering regarding the virus, the fault is not the Church. The fault lies at the feet of our dishonest media and our many dishonest politicians.

With that in mind, I would like to bring a few facts to the attention of readers. Hopefully with the help of these facts we may, as Elder Bednar recently said, arrive at a situation where “Never again must the fundamental right to worship God be trivialized below the ability to buy gasoline.”

The first point I would like to make is that pandemics are inevitable. They have happened throughout recorded human history. I would like you to consider this chart.

There are 7.8 billion people in the world, and 472,000 (more or less) have died so far from a pandemic that began six months ago. Let’s say 1.5 million people die in the next few years from COVID-19. This will mean that the Coronavirus pandemic is LESS DEADLY as a percent of world population than the Asian flu in the 1950s and the Hong Kong flu in the 1960s.

Yet, there was no worldwide lockdown in the 1950s or the 1960s. I likely contracted the Hong Kong flu in the late 1960s. Nobody wore masks, the economy did not shut down, and everybody kept on going to church. No tyrannical governors issued ridiculous lockdown rules.

Note: the Hong Kong flu virus is still around, just like COVID-19 will still be around years from now. The world adjusted without panicking. Some people died, and others (like me) got very sick. But humanity developed immunities to the virus, just as it has to other viruses that are all around us today.

Here is what I am NOT saying: I am not saying that if you are at high risk to contract COVID-19 (and everybody knows who the high risk groups are by now), that you should not take the virus seriously and take precautions. If I were in a high risk group, I would stay home and take precautions. My father and mother are high risk. I have encouraged them to stay home and take precautions. I am NOT saying that nobody should wear masks. I am NOT saying that temporary stay at home orders in areas where hospitals are being overwhelmed is a bad idea.

What I AM saying is that the worldwide lockdown was a huge mistake, both from an economic standpoint and a civil liberties standpoint. I am saying that we should have done a better job early on concentrating on protecting the elderly and other vulnerable people. If we had done that worldwide, the number of deaths would have been much, much lower. I am also pointing out that people cannot lockdown forever. No 100 percent perfect vaccine is ever likely to be developed. People will need to come out of their homes eventually, and when they do they will likely be exposed to the virus. These are simply facts. And I am also saying that the panic over the virus was WAY OVERBLOWN.

To prove that the panic is way overblown, I would like to ask readers how many have seen this chart, the chart that shows that in the U.S. deaths from the virus are down 90 percent?

What? You mean the media has never told you that? Are you saying that the media and the politicians may be dishonest?!!!??? Heaven forbid!!

(Source for the above graph: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/)

Yes, there have been more cases lately. This is basic common sense. Testing is way up, and people are leaving their homes. So, unless your argument is that everybody must stay at home forever, I have news for you: there will be more cases of the virus. But meanwhile the death rate is WAY DOWN.

Why is the death rate way down? Because young people are not at high risk to die from the virus. More young people are getting the virus, but fewer of them are dying. So, for a very large percentage of the population, COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the flu. It also obviously true that doctors have found more effective treatments to the virus over time.

One last graph. Yes, as mentioned above, new cases of the virus are up compared to a month ago. But the increase is not nearly as alarming as the media would have you believe.

Again, people are leaving their homes and going back to work and protesting and going out to dinner. More tests are being done. Of course there will be more cases. I am surprised that the number of new cases is not much higher. But it is simply a fact that fewer people are dying.

So, as we go back to church, let’s celebrate that some of us can take the Sacrament in our chapels again. Let’s celebrate a church that is directed and led by the Savior and modern-day prophets. But let’s keep some perspective about this virus. I sincerely hope we learn our lessons and never agree to a worldwide lockdown again (unless it is a virus that is considerably worse than this one).

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

12 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the virus as we head back to church

  1. Geoff, Thanks for the good thinking and logical perspective. I guess the challenge is in how can we best open society up for the not-at-risk without impacting those at risk. Unfortunately we’ve spent billions on wholesale lockdown that could have been spent on solving that challenge.

  2. Amen, brother! Thank you! I started to get the uneasy feeling that I was being sold a bill of goods after a few weeks of the lockdown. With the information we now have, I don’t think there should be any doubt that we were all lied to. The questions we should be asking now are why and how this all happened. I am grateful for prophetic guidance in the past few months that has kept the Church out of the crosshairs of those that would use any reason to harm us and prophetic guidance for the future.

  3. One thing you might consider is eliminating congregational singing, which has been associated with super spreader events. Music can be done without congregational singing. I think the guidance from your local health department seems totally reasonable.

  4. Number one thing you can do to not die of covid?

    Not wear a mask. Not socially distance. Not work from home.

    Stats are clear — don’t live in a nursing home. *

    Number two thing you can do?

    Have a BMI under 30.

    Both of those mitigation factors will drastically improve quality of life, extend lives, and drastically reduce deaths.

    And both of those can be implemented for a significant majority of the risk groups before a vaccine is developed and at lower cost.

    But what do we do? Shut things down, do nothing, print money, hope someone makes a vaccine, put on a pourous mask. Notice how all those things require virtually no effort in our part?

    *Elderly can still die in their own homes, but the contagion factor is eliminated that would take out dozens in every long term care facility.

    My thoughts on the church tend to mirror yours. The church needs to take it seriously. Because it could be very serious. The church can try these procedures and it is not necessary, its only a learning experience for the day it does become necessary.

  5. My concerns about returning to church include our lack of professional cleaning staff, and the duty-bound members who will attend while possibly sick. Thoughts on those issues?

  6. acw, I can comment on what will happen in our stake. There will be at least an hour between Sacrament meetings for the chapel to be cleaned. People will only be allowed to go into the chapel — all other areas of the building will be blocked. People will be asked before they get to Sacrament if they have symptoms. If they have symptoms, they will be asked to stay home and Sacrament will be taken to them.

  7. I know one thing. Requirement to wear a mask will keep me and my wife from attending. She refuses, and me less so, to go anywhere that a mask is required. We will either ask for continued permission to do our own sacrament or if someone can come to our house to administer. Right now it doesn’t matter because we haven’t opened up yet for attending. We are far more afraid of the social destruction than the Covid-1984 virus.

  8. Hi Geoff,

    An interesting source of graphic information regarding COVID-19 for both US states and the world is https://91-divoc.com/pages/covid-visualization/.

    You include a graph for deaths, but deaths tend to lag reported cases by at least a week. Also, you are showing the ragged “daily” information rather than the more smooth 7-day average plot, which makes it harder to see trends.

    Here in Virginia we are still not approved to resume meetings. When we do, we will likely not engage in congregational singing (based on the Washington choir super-spreading event and later analysis) and we will be requiring masks (based on science and the case of the hairdressers in Springfield, Missouri).

    While widespread death and agony has certainly occurred at higher rates in the past, I don’t feel a particular need to increase my chances of incurring pain/death/medical fees. That said, I am involved in a segment of the population where the response to COVID doesn’t threaten my job.

  9. I largely agree with you about the propriety of lockdowns, right now. However, I think the 90% reduction in deaths is probably not an appropriate reading of the data. If you look at the graph, there are a lot of ups and downs. The peak used to get the 90% number is taken at the very highest. The last number on the graph you posted is at a local minimum in the graph. It would be best to compare a local maximum to a local maximum.

    In fact, if you look at today’s version of the graph, you will see an increase to 863 as the last number. It still looks like a dramatic decrease from the peak, about 2/3. I like to interpret data conservatively.

  10. acw,
    No one is telling you that you must go back to church. At some point, however, you must accept some degree of risk.

    I can assure you the grocery store, produce section, gas station, etc is not cleaned as well as you’d probably like. To say nothing of the freight trucks, distribution centers etc.

    What I can tell you is the there’s not many cases, if any, being reported from surface contamination. It seems to mostly be person to person or though enclosed spaces with circulated air. Those two realities should temper much concern.

    I get the feeling we’re playing out on a mass scale the same hysteria that led people to shun hiv infected individuals because of virus presence in tears or on toilet seats, skin cells etc. Calling it hysteria no doubt doesn’t help win converts, but when you consider that the HIV hysteria by a small minority, was directed at confirmed infected individuals; while the covid hysteria is from a sizable to majority percentage of the population against everyone who is presumed infected and asymptomatic the comparison is fair.

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