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Keep our people safe | The Incidental Economist

Francis at St. Peters.

Two and a half months ago, I asked what each of us could do about the coronavirus. My answer was that we should talk to the people we are closely connected to and give them our best guidance on how to stay safe.

That’s still my advice. The hard question is, what is the best guidance on how to stay safe?

Some of my closest connections are to my religious community. My bishop has asked me about how the diocese should reopen services. They do not plan to reopen soon and they do not intend to defy provincial orders. However, the coronavirus will be here for a long time. We all need to plan how we can live safely in its presence.

I told the bishop that I am a (kinda, sorta) pediatric mental health epidemiologist and that I was not the expert he wanted. I offered to try to find someone who knew viruses.

But this too felt wrong. TIE is committed to evidence-based practice, not the eminence-based kind. The best thing to do — and it would be a service to every congregation — would be to get some experts together to look carefully at the risks and to search the literature for what is known about epidemic transmission in religious services and how to prevent it.

So here is my question to TIE readers: Who will join me in this task? A lot of us have skills in medicine, virology, infection control, epidemiology, and systematic reviews. We can work virtually; I’ll handle the Google docs and Zoom nonsense. Non-Christians are entirely welcome, and there is no reason to focus only on Christian practice. DM me on Twitter or write me at william dot p dot gardner at gmail dot com. If we come up with something useful, we can publish it. But the main point is to keep our people safe.


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