As of March 2, close to 90,000 people worldwide have been affected with the novel corona virus, including about 100 cases in the US. As the virus continues to spread across the nation and world, Tenth’s leadership has thought and prayed about how we should respond. Thankfully, one of our Deacons, Dr. Jerry Jacob (Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Penn Medicine and the Director of Infection Prevention at Good Shepherd Penn Partners), was willing to provide his medical opinion. 

Dr. Jacob has recommended two categories for us to think about regarding the corona virus. The first relates to wisdom, and the second to mercy. When it comes to wisdom, Dr. Jacob lists six ways for us to protect members of our community from transmitting or acquiring the virus. First, he advises us to stay home from worship services when ill with fever or when we are experiencing respiratory symptoms (cough, congestion, shortness of breath) and instead to utilize the livestream. Second, we should wash our hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after going to the bathroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water is not easily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Cleaning the environment around us is also important. We should regularly clean high touch areas in our church and home, such as tabletops, light switches, and doorknobs. Third, we should take extra effort to cover our mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If a tissue isn’t easily available, use your elbow to cover your face rather than your hands. Along the same lines, we should generally avoid touching our eyes, nose or mouth to prevent any germs on our hands from getting into our body. Fourth, we should avoid close contact with people who are ill where this is reasonable. This is not simply to protect us from illness, but to protect our loved ones who come in contact with us regularly. Conversely, we should keep our distance from others when we are sick to prevent them from becoming ill. Fifth, prepare your household by planning for ways to care for those who might become sick, especially those at higher risk for complications (i.e., elderly), and for emergency operations/closures at your work or children’s school. Finally, if the virus becomes truly widespread in Philadelphia, we as a church will need to consider cancelling services and/or postponing events.

The second category to think about is mercy. Dr. Jacob gives four suggestions about how we as the body of Christ should respond with mercy should we encounter a public health crisis. First, we should pray for those afflicted with the virus, for the healthcare workers placing themselves at risk by caring for sick patients, and for the Christians around the world who live in highly afflicted areas. Second, we should consider what support we can provide for parts of the country or the world that are heavily afflicted, including financially or materially. Third, we should combat potential stigma towards people from afflicted regions through our words and actions. Fourth, we should offer the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who are fearful.

As a Christian and an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jacob believes following these principles and practices will enable us to respond to this virus with wisdom and mercy, which is befitting for followers of Jesus Christ. 

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