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Older? Stay home on Sunday

Johnson City Press • Mar 13, 2020 at 7:15 AM

Not knowing is at times the hardest part of a crisis. We can stress ourselves out wondering about a loved one’s condition, a downturn in business, stock market fluctuations or any other unexpected hiccup in life.

Anxiety is gripping the U.S. and the rest of the world right now over the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Sporting events, concerts and other public gatherings have been postponed or canceled. Colleges and universities are moving to online classes or shutting down altogether. All of this is in hopes of curtailing COVID-19’s spread. Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency in Tennessee on Thursday as the state’s confirmed cases of the virus increased. Meanwhile, the economic repercussions mount.

Among the things we don’t know at this point is whether this unprecedented level of caution is necessary, an overreaction or somewhere in between. The latter is the likely answer, but no institution wants to be the one that responds too late and has a real crisis on its hands.

What we do know is that standard precautions — frequent hand-washing, avoiding handshakes and other personal contact, disinfecting door knobs and other surfaces — can limit transmission. We also know that some groups of people in particular are most susceptible to dire consequences from COVID-19: the elderly, chronic disease sufferers and people with compromised immune systems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises such at-risk people to follow the universal precautions listed above, as well as to avoid crowds and to stay home during a localized outbreak.

For many people in this area, particularly our older citizens, the one large gathering they faithfully attend is a worship service. At the time this is written, the Press has not received notices from churches about canceled events, but we do expect that congregations will be soon — if not already — contemplating such measures.

While we would not want to stoke unwarranted fears, we believe it would behoove families with older relatives to consider alternative methods of worship until a clear picture emerges about COVID-19’s effects in this region. Simply put, stay home on Sunday. While we in no way suggest that your faith is a minimal priority, your health comes first.

We apply that same logic to any event an older citizen might consider attending during this time of concern. Staying home is your best defense.

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