South Mainers,

The COVID-19 Task Force has been committed from the beginning and throughout the pandemic to follow the data coming out of the Texas Medical Center and the advice and guidance of medical experts. While we had hoped the pandemic was largely behind us, unfortunately, the latest spike caused by the delta variant causes us to pause and recalibrate. Coupled with slowing vaccination rates, this highly infectious strain of COVID in Houston is posing a serious threat.

What is Happening in Our Community?
The latest TMC data show the seven-day average of new cases in Houston has spiked to about 1,200 new cases per day, up from around 130 new cases per day just a month ago. These new cases are leading to a sharp increase in hospitalizations, with an average of 180 new hospitalizations each day over the last week, compared to 50 per day just one month ago.
The vaccines are still proving to be very effective, largely protecting those who are fully vaccinated from contracting the virus, and for those who do, most experience mild cases. That said one of the top hospital systems in Houston is reporting that 15 percent of their COVID admissions are so-called "breakthrough" cases, meaning infections in those who are fully vaccinated. These hospitalizations of vaccinated individuals are largely occurring in those who had a relatively low antibody response to the vaccination and tend to be older individuals and others who generally have low immune response.
Medical and science experts generally agree that the delta variant is significantly more infectious than the previous strains. This means as the overall level of COVID-19 cases increases in our community, we will continue to see an acceleration of infections in Houston for some time, including breakthrough cases.

What is SMBC's Response?
We continue to be extremely grateful for the high vaccination rate among those eligible at South Main. However, to protect our unvaccinated children and those with weakened immune systems and to help control spread of the current highly contagious delta variant, we will make the following change.

Beginning Sunday, August 1, masks are strongly recommended for all people, regardless of vaccination status, while indoors at SMBC. Masks will continue to be required in most Family Ministry areas, including for adults who work with our children. 

Please remain diligent in following safety precautions and in prayer as we hope for containment of this virus.

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