COVID-19: Methodist Hospital Update for Pastors with Texas Annual Conference UMC

Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Methodist Hospital System,  Bishop Scott Jones, and Mary Lou Reece hosted a webinar for all clergy of the Texas Annual Conference on June 25th. This webinar addresses the 600 churches in the Texas Annual Conference on the current COVID-19 spike, how that affects the church and its programming.

Discussion Questions:

1. 0:00:43 - Where are we in our battle against Covid-19?

2. 0:03:38 - If you haven't started in-person worship, should you delay farther, and if so, how long?

3. 0:06:43 - If we were to say we are going to give up on the second Sunday in July option, what's a fallback. When might we think about it actually being okay to reopen with all the precautions we're talking about?

4. 0:11:30 - If a church is worshiping in person, what are the things that you think they ought to be making sure of in order to be as safe as possible given that decision that they've made?

5. 0:18:05 - What about congregational singing? Is that even something that could be thought about, or should we just abandon it for a while?

6. 0:19:41 - If there is a single performer singing from stage, how far away should they be from the audience, and should they be masked?

7. 0:22:50 - What do we know about herd immunity associated with COVID-19 right now?

8. 0:30:23 - We hear a lot about symptomatic and asymptomatic people, but is there much in between? Can a person be mildly symptomatic with just one small symptom, or is that unlikely? If one of my team members is mildly symptomatic, do we keep them at home?

9. 0:33:00 - What factors do you attribute to African Americans dying at disproportionately higher rates than other ethnic groups? Additionally, does the Texas Medical Center and Houston Methodists have a plan to address these healthcare inequities and disparities?

10. 0:38:25 - Is there something about Type A blood being worse in terms of impact? Is that another genetic or biological factor that makes some people get a more serious case than others?

11. 0:40:01 - What if the pastor of a church is the one who's over 60? What advice do you have for those of us who are in that 65 and older group?

12. 0:42:54 - What are your insights about the Beaumont area of Tyler or College Station communities that are in the 40 to 120 thousand population range?

13. 0:45:47 - We previously gave congregants the choice to wear a mask. Should we begin to either ask people to wear masks as they enter or leave worship, or should we begin asking people to wear masks for the entire worship service?

14. 0:47:49 - What about taking people’s temperatures before they come in the building? Is that something that ought to be done, or is that sort of over the top?

15. 0:49:16 - What are the rationale for getting tested for COVID or for antibodies? Under what circumstances should somebody go to get a test?

16. 0:56:33 - What about resuming children's and youth ministries and especially preschools?

17. 0:58:58 - Does being outdoor for worship lower risk factors that all that would allow for singing, or other things or do we still need masks even in an outdoor environment.


Bishop Scott Jones (00:00:00):

Well, we do appreciate all that you've been doing, and we are proud to be associated with you. I told some people in a few minutes ago who got on the call a little early that at the board meeting yesterday we paid great tribute to you, but you also said your staff who are running the hospital while you're getting the messaging out. So, thank you for making time for this conversation today. Obviously, we have a lot of United Methodists on. I extended the invitation to many of our ecumenical partners as well. So, this is really aimed at church leaders for, you know, how to cope with this. And let me just start off with a question. Where are we in our battle against COVID-19? Can you give us a general summary of what things look like at this point?

Dr. Marc Boom (00:00:51):

Sure. And I, I have slides at some point that can show you some of the data around that, but, you know, right now is a challenging time. There's no question. And that's why, you know, as we were talking briefly, things have been a little crazy, you know, the hospital. So, you know, there's a lot of very conflicting messaging happening right now, and it's very frustrating for everybody. I get it and believe me, it's frustrating for us. So, you know, you get the kind of, Oh my gosh, the sky's falling down this instant sort of, you know, theme and you get others who still are, Oh, this isn't that big a deal. And of course, neither one of those are right. It’s in between those, although frankly, it's more towards the, level of concern than, you know, the people who are saying, well, this is, this is nothing we're seeing this ramp up very significantly.

We at the hospitals had been trying to find the right messaging and the TMC, the Texas medical center took a little misstep last night and ended up kind of messaging that, you know, we're full. And we're about to be out of control when really that wasn't the case. It was really intended to rally people and then they kind of miss messaged it. So, this morning, actually four of us did a press conference to talk about hospital capacity. I'd say that the key messages from that, if I was to summarize is we all have hospital capacity and have lots of creative things we can do. So we are not in a today shortage of hospital capacity. We have creative things we can do, but those creative things only last so long. So, you know, in two to three weeks, if we stay on a trend line, we're going to start to have some real challenges.

We know that we can change things in the community with a two to two week or so lead time and bring the curve down. And so, the time now is to start taking much more definitive actions, all of us as citizens, and other things that we need to do. And that's the time, you know, to do that now. So that was a second big message. And the third is really everybody personally, individually needs to do the social distancing, the hand hygiene, you know, this is not the time to advance through the society, new things and new openings, because right now this is going up very rapidly.

Bishop Scott Jones (00:03:03):

Let me just sort of launch in with what some pastors want to think about as we lead congregations. And one pastor I talked to earlier today had this question. He had led a rather large church, one of our largest United Methodist churches into a slow response and they have not yet started worshiping, in person reopening is sort of the catchphrase for that, but they were looking at doing so the second Sunday in July, if you haven't started in-person worship, should you delay farther? And if so, how long?