On a Sunday afternoon last August 1st, I had just gotten home from church when I received a text from a staff member reporting that several of our Clubs’ groups and their counselors should now consider themselves exposed to Covid. It had been a quiet summer to that point but now the Delta variant was announcing its arrival. I soon found myself back at the office, meeting with staff, consulting with a health department official, and ultimately making decisions that led to the testing of dozens of staff and the cancellation of several activities the following week.
We’ve come a long way since last August. Science continues to produce new data, safeguards, and therapies. With the worst impacts of the disease currently reduced in the U.S., more Americans assume a certain measure of personal risk as an acceptable cost of engaging in activities that would have been unthinkable two years ago. Notably, however, while institutions – businesses, schools, and churches – have also evolved, many remain cautious, continuing to monitor the risk of Covid to their own customers, guests, students, employees, and other unique circumstances. Montreat Conference Center remains among that number, and the anecdote above provides an illustration for those wondering why.
First, Covid remains a health risk for the unvaccinated – a group that still includes children under the age of five – as well as for the immune-compromised and for others among us. Second, the conference center’s ability to conduct conferences and provide recreation this summer depends on a healthy staff. Despite all the advances that make this summer safer than last, significant requirements remain in effect for all those infected. If a staff member tests positive this summer – symptoms or no symptoms – that staff member must quarantine.
So, we will be taking precautions both in our programming and with staff and encouraging everyone to remain careful, even as we begin the summer with relaxed policies from a year ago. As I said last week, we will begin the summer without any requirement that program participants and conference guests mask indoors, and we will adjust our policies as we progress depending on our experience over the first few weeks. As we move forward, this is simply to ask you to extend the same kind of patience and understanding that our staff received from the community last year. We all share a common interest in a healthy summer with programs uninterrupted by Covid – and besides, I’d really like to take a solid nap most Sunday afternoons.
President, Montreat Conference Center