Seventy-six fewer people joined us inside our church for Mass this weekend, a total of 826. That's our 5th highest since the lockdown.
Mass Inside Outside
4 PM 201 0
6 PM 129 1
8 AM 141 0
10 AM 169 2
12 PM 186 1
Total 826 4
Asbury Park Press
has started writing that we've entered the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
If you look at the Cases and Trends graphs at
, you can get a sense of where we're at in the fourth wave. Surprisingly, new cases remain very low as they were last summer. I suspect that the restrictions last summer and the vaccines this summer resulted in very few new cases. I have noticed new cases trending up over the last couple weeks. If this trend continues, we could have a medium or high level of new daily cases by September or October.
Another graph to consider is the Hospitalized Patients graph under Hospitalizations. On July 8th, there were 17 COVID positive patients in the four Ocean County hospitals. We peaked at 275 on January 14th.
When you look at the deaths graph, you'll see that we're averaging about 1 death every 10 days in Ocean County. Deaths were highest on April 21, 2020 with 31.
The numbers that I see correspond to what I'm reading. That is, the fourth wave will have a medium or high level of new cases but much lower hospitalizations and deaths. Many vulnerable people have already been vaccinated. The vast majority of new hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated.
I've also been reading that the delta variant out of India is now dominant in the United States. It is more contagious with more serious symptoms. Even children who catch the delta variant sometimes need to go to the hospital.
I have not watched the secular media or even read closely the articles in the
Asbury Park Press
. I know many news outlets are putting some biased spins on what they're saying. That's why I compare what is said with the numbers that are published at
and the anecdotal stories I hear from parishioners, family, and friends. For example, my sister Theresa works at Monmouth Medical South. For most of the summer there has been one or no cases in the hospital.
Risks, Benefits, Reason, & Prayer
I wish I could give simple answers regarding the pandemic. However, we have quite a variety of parishioners with a wide variety of situations. The "Fourth Wave" section above is my summary of our general situation here in Ocean County. Let's now consider a few items that can help us make decisions.
It's important to determine risks and benefits for any activities we're considering. For those who are fully vaccinated, the risk of getting sick or dying is extremely low. We can pretty much live like we did before the lockdown. For those not vaccinated, the risks fluctuate based on setting, time of year, and how prevalent new cases are locally. The risk also depends on your own medical situation as well as genetics. Because new cases are still pretty low, I think risks are pretty low in Ocean County. They could be higher at gatherings where everyone is close together and maskless.
At St. John's, we have a pretty good set-up. We have carved out sections for those who want to be six feet apart. We have five Sunday Masses instead of our normal four. Confessions are in the back of the parish hall until we get better ventilation in the old store which will become the new confessional room.
After determining risks, it's also important to consider benefits. I've been encouraging all of you to visit family, friends, and neighbors this summer while cases are low. I think this is still a good idea. I don't know how bad the fourth wave will get. Visiting people has many benefits.
The most important thing we do every week is attend Sunday Mass. The benefits are out of this world. If the risk is low, then the benefit of Sunday Mass is definitely worth it.
Basically, I encourage everyone to use their reason to figure out what's happening and what is prudent to do. Pray for an end to the pandemic. Pray for courage to do those things that are good and important like visiting Jesus at Mass and family and friends in their homes or elsewhere.
Bishop O'Connell asked us priests to encourage the faithful to get vaccinated while respecting our freedom of conscience. Some may have moral objections to vaccines that have a remote connection to abortion. Some may want to wait until a vaccine is fully approved by the FDA or until the Novavax vaccine becomes available. Some may be concerned about the risks associated with the vaccines. Whatever your concerns, please use your reason to determine the truth. Consult your doctor. Consider the experience of your blood relatives who have already been vaccinated. There are some crazy ideas out there and some legitimate concerns.
When looking at the big picture, it seems to me that the vaccines are much more helpful than harmful. For myself, I opted to get vaccinated in order to better protect our vulnerable parishioners. I also run in order to stay healthy and maintain a high lung capacity.
Really Big Picture
This pandemic and the variety of problems around the world have so many aspects and complications. I rely on trusted sources for news and commentary. God has given me tremendous gifts, but I still can't figure it all out. We need Jesus. He is our Savior. He loves us to death. I find peace and serenity when I trust Him more. We honor Him when we use the gifts He has given us - including our reason.
God love you,
Fr. Jim O'Neill
on Monday, July 19 at 12:05PM