Josh Laxton on Some Cautions About Coronavirus and Church

Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

But where did I contract COVID-19? I was contacted by my home church—where I periodically preach—that I had been around someone the previous Sunday who had later tested positive for COVID-19.

As I thought back to that Sunday, I was never really around that person for more than a couple of minutes, and I especially wasn’t around them without my mask. If you know me, I’m pretty conscientious when it comes to germs and thus practicing good hygiene. [Now, I’m not like my boss and friend, Ed Stetzer. He’s on a whole different level.]

I also, thought back to other people I had been around a couple days before that Sunday and after that Sunday. I was around no one. So, I am fairly confident that I contracted COVID-19 that Sunday morning. But I still didn’t know how. I maintained social distance the entire time. I wore my mask the entire time—other than when I preached. I didn’t touch anything; I used hand-sanitizer throughout the morning.

So, how in the world did I contract it?

I started to do a little more digging into how one can contract COVID-19. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are three main ways people can contract COVID-19:

  • Droplets and Close Contact
  • Surface Transmission
  • Airborne Transmission

I also came across a couple of other articles and a video as I learned more about airborne transmission. According to Harvard Medical School,

“A person infected with coronavirus—even one with no symptoms—may emit aerosols when they talk or breathe [or sing]. Aerosols are infectious viral particles that can float or drift around in the air for up to three hours. Another person can breathe in these aerosols and become infected with the coronavirus.”

In a YouTube video titled, “The TRUTH of How Coronavirus Spreads and How to Prevent Coronavirus,” Doctor Mike Hansen notes that droplet nuclei (the smaller droplet particles), given the environmental conditions, can stay emitted in the air up to three hours. He also notes a few life situations that seem to concur that people contracted COVID-19 by breathing in the smaller droplets via airborne transmission.

One case he noted in particular, as many news outlets covered, was the choir in upstate Washington. Early during the pandemic, the choir chose to meet with healthy protocols in place such as social distancing, hand-sanitizer, and no hugs or handshakes. However, it is unclear whether masks were worn. Nevertheless, 45 out of the 60 choir members contracted COVID-19—and two of the 45 died.

Dr. Hansen, in his video, noted that though there is no conclusive evidence that COVID-19 spreads through airborne transmission, there are certain studies that seem to draw that conclusion. In other words, there is circumstantial evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted through airborne transmission from smaller droplets that hang in the air longer than the heavier respiratory droplets.

I should note that early on in the pandemic, the World Health Organization downplayed the possibility of transmission through aerosols, stating that people could only contract COVID through the transmission of large droplets. But further studies since then do show, at the very least, how the virus in smaller droplets form a mist that can stay suspended in the air between 1–3 hours. As Dr. Hansen concluded, there is enough “circumstantial evidence” to conclude airborne transmission is a viable way COVID-19 can spread.

As I read such articles and watched such videos, I came to the conclusion this might have been what happened to me. I had taken all the necessary protective measures, yet when I got on stage without a mask, I found myself standing, literally, where the misty cloud of smaller particles would have been lingering from the person singing—who later tested positive for COVID-19. And I stayed in that mist for 40 minutes.

There is no way to prove this. It is certainly, at most, circumstantial.

Why do I share my story?

There are a couple of reasons why I share my experience.

First, churches should take the virus seriously, if they aren’t already.

This doesn’t mean that churches shouldn’t be meeting. Even after contracting COVID-19 I am still an advocate for churches meeting—as long as they take protective and preventative measures and have effective and efficient policies at responding to news one of their staff members have been around someone infected or starts showing symptoms of the virus.

I understand the arguments on why some church leaders don’t take this seriously. They think people have heavily politicized this virus and blown it out of proportion. They think that fear of the virus trumps the faith needed to be protected from the virus. And so, some want to be cavalier and refrain from wearing mask and practicing social distancing, instead going back to ministry as normal. From where I sit today—in my bed recovering from COVID-19—this is a mistake.

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Source: Christianity Today