Time for some good news. On Tuesday, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky addressed the nation in a White House press briefing and marked an important new success in the effort to vaccinate the nation. CDC guidelines now say that fully vaccinated people can attend worship services indoors, as long as they stay masked up.
“As we gather more and more data on the real-world efficacy of vaccines, we know that masked, fully vaccinated people can safely attend worship services inside,” Walensky said. She also said that restaurants, bars and even gyms are safe, as long as you keep your mask on. And if you’re going to an outdoor event like an an outside worship service or exercise class, the CDC recommends only staying masked up if it’s extra crowded, like at a concert.
By “fully vaccinated,” the CDC means that you’re two weeks out from your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or your single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. “The examples shown today show that when you are vaccinated, you can return to many activities safely, and most of them outdoors and unmasked — and begin to get back to normal,” Walensky said.
Religious services have been sticking point for American citizens and elected leaders during the pandemic. While most faith leaders and their congregations were willing to follow CDC guidelines and move their services online, several groups loudly protested the rules. Former Hillsong worship leader Sean Feucht’s Let Us Worship concert tour was touted as an explicit protest to the CDC’s guidelines against indoor services, creating headaches for locals with his outdoor events. California megachurch pastor John MacArthur flouted CDC guidelines even after multiple members of his congregation contracted COVID-19. It was a difficult, divisive time.
Such conflicts may not be entirely behind the church, since the pandemic exposed some growing cultural riffs within various faith groups. However, news that getting back together indoors (once you’re fully vaxxed and masked) is good news for all of us.