COVID Precautions Update: Chip Ellis, How We Gather Task Force Chair

As COVID cases have dropped 90% from national pandemic highs, our Pandemic “How We Gather” Task Force has recommended that we loosen our protocols. In doing so, we are prepared to re-implement protocols with very short notice if trends change and case/positivity/hospitalization levels rise.

We are saddened that thousands of mostly unvaccinated Americans continue to die each day from COVID-19. Most of these deaths were preventable.

We also understand that it has not just been the disease itself but the impact of quarantining on both work and personal lives. We have read of cases where a parent had a very mild case but could not hug their children for 10 days.

We continue to act according to our Rodeph Shalom Reopening Values & Plan Guidelines adopted in May 2020. Specifically:
• We follow the science
• We follow the government regulations even when they do not apply to houses of worship

With widespread vaccination fending off severe disease for most of those who are vaccinated, the thresholds of mandates and our protocols are no longer based on cases but rather on severe disease and hospitalizations.

The City of Philadelphia 4 levels of mandates are tied to 4 levels of COVID spread. Although the mandates may not apply to RS because we are a house of worship, our Board has stated that the government regulations will serve as our minimum protocols. Following these mandates helps us to protect our community.

As I write this, we today have reached the Level 1: All Clear/Low Community Level. Philadelphia mask requirement mandates have been dropped except in schools and healthcare settings and on public transportation.

We are now dropping our building’s vaccination verification procedure. However, we continue to require all who enter the building who are eligible to be fully vaccinated and boosted when eligible.

Starting March 7, Rodeph Shalom is planning to drop its mask requirements for services and most events. As the Philadelphia School District continues to have a mask requirement, Berkman Mercaz Limud will continue to have its mask requirement. When the Philadelphia public schools drop its mask mandate, Berkman Mercaz Limud will reconsider whether to drop its mask requirement. Similarly, the Buerger Early Learning Center (ELC) continues its mask requirement for children ages 2 and up as well as for its staff. For all who are on site during hours of operation of the Buerger ELC, masks continue to be required in our hallways.

We understand that our Congregational membership views on precautions vary widely. We know that many of our members are or live with individuals who are immuno-compromised or who have children under 5 in their households. As we move forward, we are committed to continuing our multi-access approach to our services and programs.

We are delighted by the recent trends. We have learned over the past two years that the only constant is change. We are prepared to respond to any COVID-19 variant spread changes. We will always put protecting the lives of our community first.