Worldwide concern about the virus known as COVID-19 continues to grow. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) is closely monitoring the situation to provide the best possible information and counsel to LCMS staff and missionaries who may be in areas of increased risk.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is the newest strain in the category of virus known as coronaviruses. The WHO says coronaviruses “may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). … This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.”
According to the WHO, as of March 1, there were 87,137 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,873 deaths worldwide. The majority of confirmed cases and deaths are in China. The March 2 update from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports 43 confirmed cases and two deaths in the United States, but at this writing, news outlets in the U.S. are reporting a total of six deaths, all in the state of Washington.
Kendall Cortright, director of LCMS Missionary Services for the Office of International Mission (OIM), says that the OIM is actively gathering information about COVID-19 from multiple resources, including the CDC, WHO, safety and security organizations, government websites and news articles. The OIM has also been regularly communicating with LCMS staff and missionaries in the field to develop contingency plans for addressing the possible spread of the virus.
Cortright emphasizes that, at this time, no LCMS missionaries have been affected by COVID-19. All, he says, remain “safe and healthy.”
There are, however, several recent CDC travel advisories regarding COVID-19, several in areas where LCMS missionaries are located, including South Korea and Italy (CDC advisory level 3 – reconsider travel), Japan (level 2 – exercise increased caution) and Hong Kong (level 1 – exercise normal precautions). OIM will continue to monitor travel alerts, particularly in countries where the LCMS has missionaries and that have a level 2 advisory or higher. The OIM is recommending all deployed staff prepare in advance for logistical challenges related to travel bans on affected countries and keep their travel to affected countries with level 2 or higher to a minimum.
“The virus is quite frightening for many people,” Cortright notes, “but we recognize that its impact is relatively small in comparison to influenza, which so far this season has infected 26 million people, resulting in 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.”
This story will be updated as needed. For the most current information about COVID-19, see cdc.gov or who.int.
Posted March 2, 2020
I don’t think you understand the situation in Washington state. Right now (3/15/20) we have 568 confirmed cases of Covid 19 (cases tripled in 7 days) and almost 40 deaths in the Seattle area and Snohomish county. After just reading your flyer for planning, I think for those of us who have been asked by our Gov to limit gatherings espec. for those over 60 or with immune problems, (in our church in Snohomish, 90% of attending members are ages 60-90+) that you need to rethink your advice.
Store shelves are emptying fast, all schools and univ cancelled for 6 weeks, severe shortages with long delays for testing supplies and shortage of medical protective supplies and lab equipment. This makes Drs reluctant to test, labs & hospitals are short on supplies; no hand sanitizer or alcohol, or masks are available anywhere! You really don’t understand the situation when you are making a flyer that says “continue to gather in worship”. We are at the epicenter of a pandemic! As Christians who love their neighbor, we should be staying home and taking extreme precautions with hygiene measures.
Please update your message to reflect need for prayers and suggest emergency measures that congregations should take for fellow Lutherans in Washington state. Our Gov. has asked that people should always be 6 ft apart at any gathering and organizers are required to advertise to people over age 60 or with health issues that they should not attend. The Catholic Diocese has cancelled all Mass. We are wrestling as Lutheran leadership with decisions whether to continue or cancel services.
Be safe. May God’s angels protect and watch over each of you.
Karen Berner, age 80, Zion Lutheran Church Snohomish, WA