COVID-19 at TTS

March 15, 2022

12 Adar II, 5782

Dear TTS Community:

 

Effective March 15, 2022, Temple Tiferet Shalom will be adopting a mask-optional policy.  This is in response to the recent significant downward trends in COVID cases locally, as well as updated CDC and Massachusetts state guidance.  This policy is subject to change, depending on changing conditions. 

 

This means that people visiting the Temple will have the choice of whether to wear a mask.  The Temple will make masks available for anyone who chooses to wear one.  We will recommend, but not require, that all in person participants be both vaccinated and boosted.  All in person participants who are unvaccinated should continue to wear a mask to all temple events.

 

Under the mask-optional policy, we expect that some people may continue to choose to wear masks.  There may be many reasons for the option chosen.  We trust that everyone will respect each other’s choices.  We specifically recommend that those who are at high risk; those with high-risk people in their families or social circles; and those who are likely to come in contact with high-risk individuals; will all continue to wear a mask.

 

We know some disagree with a mask optional phase at this time. We can only promise that we have deeply considered this and are doing our best to make the best recommendations possible.

 

Our community, and society, have gone through a tremendous upheaval over the past two years. Many of our congregants have faced physical and mental health challenges. Many in government, corporations, and organizations like ours, worked hard at the difficult task of balancing the health, welfare, and autonomy of all. We have weathered uncertainty, changing circumstances, changing data, changing recommendations, and vigorous policy disagreements between thoughtful, intelligent, and caring people who shared the same goal of ensuring all of us live our best lives possible.

 

We hope that this next step is the only the first towards a future even better than before. That everyone will be grateful to those who tried to protect them and forgive those they disagreed with. That our collective experience, and shared trauma, brings us closer than we have ever been.

 

At TTS, our mask optional phase will be continually re-visited over time. Different measures may need to be instituted or re-instituted in the future. If any temple member has questions or concerns, now or in the future, please reach out to our committee any time.

 

The following are some of the considerations that helped guide our decision making.

 

  1. Minimizing harm to individuals. Today, there are more tools than ever before for individuals to protect themselves from harm from COVID.

  • First, effective vaccines and boosters are widely available. The recent Omicron variant did, unfortunately, surge rapidly even through highly vaccinated populations such as ours. However, those vaccinated and boosted suffered dramatically lower risks of hospitalization and death than ever before.

                                                             i.            https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7104e2.htm

  • Second, more treatments are available for COVID than ever before, and most importantly, available in sufficient supply. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health now notes (Feb 22, 2022) that there is a sufficient supply of COVID therapeutics (both monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals) that all patients should currently have access.

                                           i.             https://www.mass.gov/info-details/information-for-providers-about-therapeutic-treatments-for-covid-19

 

  • Third, masks are widely available and can help protect individuals from contracting COVID. We note that the recent Omicron variant spread widely and rapidly, even in populations where masks were widely used. Most of our committee believes that the majority of this spread occurred in locations where people were unmasked (such as individual homes, restaurants, get-togethers) rather than those with widespread masking (schools, hospitals). We specifically note that in-hospital COVID transmission to health care providers remained extremely low throughout the pandemic, even during the worst COVID surges.

                                            i.             https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

 2. Minimizing infectious disease spread. An individual who suffers no harm from COVID infection can still deliver harm, even unknowingly, either directly or indirectly. We do feel that TTS should work to protect its members and surrounding community. However, at this time, the risk of community spread appears relatively low.

  • First, more in our community have either been vaccinated, or have recovered from COVID, than ever before. Over 77% of people in Massachusetts are fully vaccinated. In our county, 89% have received at least one vaccine dose; 97% of those over 12 years old have received at least one dose; and 95% of those over 5 years old have received at least one dose.

                                              i.            https://www.mass.gov/doc/weekly-covid-19-vaccination-report-february-24-2022/download

  • Second, overall case numbers are low and dropping. As of March 15, there were fewer than 1000 daily new COVID cases in Massachusetts. Not as good as summer 2020 (when we averaged less than 100 daily new cases in MA) but far fewer than in January 2021 (over 20,000 daily new cases). Current CDC guidelines place our county as “Low” risk (on a scale of Low/Medium/High), and no longer recommend mandatory indoor masking at this level.

                                             i.            https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html

                                             ii.            https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-response-reporting#covid-19-interactive-data-dashboard-

  • Third, our community members are largely functioning in world without masks. There is no longer a mask mandate in most of our local school systems, or many of the environments where our members work, shop, or congregate. In these circumstances, it is likely that mandatory masking at TTS will have little impact on the community.

3. Minimizing impact on the health care system. Even if we were to accept the risks of COVID-related harm to individuals, our community, and society, COVID surges can overwhelm the healthcare system, preventing access to care for a wide range of medical conditions unrelated to COVID. We feel that TTS should also consider its part in minimizing surges in COVID infections for this reason as well. At this time, COVID hospitalizations and ICU admissions are relatively low, and our healthcare system is not currently overwhelmed by COVID.

 

Overall, there remain risks of individual harm, population harm, and healthcare system harm from COVID. These are not zero and may never be. But they are relatively low at this time, suggesting that a mask optional policy is currently justified.

 

Sincerely,

 

Temple Tiferet Shalom COVID Committee

(a/k/a Re-Opening Committee)