President's Message October 20, 2020 (updated)

10/20/2020(updated)

Dear friends,

We are now officially in Phase 3 of the COVID-19 guidelines. Executive Order 9F, the Phase 3 relevant document released by Gov. Lamont, states the following:

"Effective on October 8, 2020, Executive Order No. 7TT, Section 2 is amended to provide that religious, spiritual, or worship gatherings, if held indoors, are limited to no more than 50 percent of the building's capacity or a maximum of 200 people, whichever is lower, and such services, if held outdoors, are limited to the number of people that can be accommodated safely by the venue or location provided that all persons present wear masks, unless speaking from designated safe locations, and that a distance of 6 feet is maintained between all persons or groups not from the same household."

So what does this mean? Practically speaking for our synagogue, not much. The arithmetic based upon this new order goes like this:

160 (fire occupancy limit of the sanctuary) + 520 (fire occupancy limit of the social hall) = 680

50% of 680 = 340 However, this limit is further reduced to 200 as it is the lesser of the two numbers.

In earlier (but still-in-effect) orders:

"Seating arrangements are to be rearranged such that there is space to maintain at least 6 ft. of distance between attendees. Alternate rows between attendees (every other row should be kept empty). Two or more members of the same household may be seated adjacent to each other with at least 6 ft. distance maintained on either side from the next attendee. The building capacity constraint should be further reduced by the limitation imposed by the seating arrangement, if applicable."

Taking a more conservative approach, we have and will continue to use 8 ft. spacing rather than 6 ft. Using an architectural drawing of the building and applying 8 ft. circles over the combined (folding wall open) area of the sanctuary and social hall, we can fit 75. Therefore, this is the absolute maximum number of individuals we can allow into the building. And this is the same number we had in Phase 2...no change because it is being driven by the geometry of floor space and the nesting together of 8 ft. circles touching only at the edges. Notwithstanding a successful testing and release of a COVID-19 vaccine, I expect that this limitation will be in effect for a very long time.

Our Back to Shul document is being updated to reflect Executive Order 9F plus other changes and will be posted on our website shortly.

The course of the pandemic in Connecticut appears to be at odds with the just-described relaxation of guidelines. A primary metric use to monitor how the disease is progressing or retreating is arrived at by calculating the number of new infections per 100,000 population. There are 3 broad bands of values that use this metric to define risk of infection. If the number is between 0 and 10 infections/100K, the risk is low. If between 10 and 25, the risk is medium. Beyond 25, it is high. Connecticut bottomed out late last June at just shy of 2. Since then we have experienced a slow but steady increase (as measured by a 7-day rolling average) so that, today, we are sitting at just above 10...barely into the medium risk band. It will take a few more weeks to truly see where this is heading, but the trend is not favorable.

Even with the ability to allow 75 people into the building, we will not do that. The current limitation of 10 family units gathering inside the building remains in effect. Why? There are several reasons and these are not in any order of importance.

First, as the paragraph above describes, overall risk has moved from low to medium. Personal safety remains our most important consideration.

Secondly, and on a more practical note, there has been virtually zero demand to increase in-person attendance above the 10 family unit limit...and that includes all of the just-past High Holiday services. If we look at Saturday morning attendance, both pre- and post-COVID, barely making a minyan up to maybe 15 people in attendance was and continues to be the norm. It makes bumping the attendance limit up a moot point.

Lastly, across the board, our services are better attended when using Zoom, whether solely or in combination with in-person attendance. That appears to be very likely to continue.

To finish up, I want to pass on a link to another excellent article regarding the pandemic. It was written
by Zeynep Tufekci, an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina. She studies the interaction between digital technology, artificial intelligence, and society. Titled "This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic. It's not R." and published in The Atlantic, she shares an interesting insight as to how COVID-19 is spread. Here's the link: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/k-overlooked-variable-driving-pandemic/616548/.

Stay safe and healthy,

Bob

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