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Cutting through COVID-19 confusion

Christians in scientific research offer insight into the public confusion surrounding the 'novel virus.'

When it comes to COVID-19, it’s easy to feel uncertain, confused, even angry.

Information from the news, social media and family and friends doesn’t always match up. 

Talibah Metcalf, a member of the Springhill Road Church of Christ in Florida, researches infectious diseases, including COVID-19, for Drexel University.

Talibah Metcalf, a member of the Springhill Road Church of Christ in Florida, researches infectious diseases, including COVID-19, for Drexel University.

“I can understand how someone who isn’t in a science background can be overwhelmed,” said Talibah Metcalf, a member of the Springhill Road Church of Christ in Tallahassee, Fla. 

Metcalf is a scientist who works in the Division of HIV Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She and her colleagues are studying how and why COVID-19 affects patients so differently.

It can be confusing when information seems to change quickly and frequently, she said. However, change is part of research and guaranteed to happen when investigating a “novel virus.” 

“We can adapt to technology, so we should be able to adapt to changes in science and medicine,” Metcalf said. Most important, she said, is to pay attention to the recommendations that are consistent.

“We can adapt to technology, so we should be able to adapt to changes in science and medicine.”

“It’s very simple,” Metcalf said. “Be clean. Wear your mask. Social distance. Wash your hands.”

As for the idea of masks, she said while experts early on may have publicly disagreed about the use of masks, scientists have long seen them as a necessary preventative measure. 

OUR MOST IMPORTANT TOOL IN THE FIGHT 

Alex Huffman, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Denver, emphasized the same message concerning masks.

“They’re critical,” said Huffman, a member of the Littleton Church of Christ. “They’re the single most important tool that we have as a nation, as an individual community and as an individual to help stop the spread, or the rate of the spread.”

Huffman said it’s unfortunate how politicized issues surrounding the virus and the public safety measures have become.

Alex Huffman, a member of the Littleton Church of Christ in Colorado, is an aerosol scientist and professor of chemistry at the University of Denver.

Alex Huffman, a member of the Littleton Church of Christ in Colorado, is an aerosol scientist and professor of chemistry at the University of Denver.

“This really should not be a partisan conversation,” he said. “The virus and the disease associated with it do not care about your political leanings, your opinions on anything.”

The message has been “muddled,” he said, but the science is quite clear. 

“If we, as a national community, would commit to wearing our masks as much as possible, the rates of this disease would drop quickly and dramatically. So that’s basically what we need to do.”

No, he said, masks will not make the virus disappear, but they can help to reduce the number of cases.

“If we treat it seriously, even as annoying as it is to do the things we need to do, those rates will come down such that people will not be sick and dying at the rate they are,” Huffman said. 

THE DANGER OF SINGING 

Huffman’s expertise is as an aerosol scientist. His knowledge has been helpful for his home congregation as they’ve tried to make informed decisions about meeting. One factor he said is important to consider — the fact that singing has been proven to be a “dangerous” activity. 

“I love singing. I love worship. But I just think the risk to the community is so much greater when we’re singing indoors that we have to treat that very, very carefully at this point.”

“I’m a part of the Church of Christ community, and I get how important singing is,” Huffman said. “I love singing. I love worship. But I just think the risk to the community is so much greater when we’re singing indoors that we have to treat that very, very carefully at this point.”

When it comes to what churches should do, he said, the answer is simple: meet outside, stay socially distant, wear masks (especially during singing) and wash your hands. Each congregation has to be handled individually, looking at its size and demographics, and considering how widespread the virus is in its area.

For those already meeting indoors, he encourages church leaders to consider extra precautions, like opening doors and windows for extra ventilation, social distancing even more than 6 feet while singing and wearing a mask while singing. He also suggests increase air ventilation or filtration in the room. Huffman said even using a simple method, like this homemade solution, could work.

“It’s when you’re singing that you are expelling by far the most,” Huffman said. “That is by far the most important time to keep your mask sealed well over your mouth and nose.”

ACTS OF LOVE NEEDED 

Metcalf knows it’s hard to see restrictions placed on worship services, but she believes the extra precautions are necessary because of the close, personal interactions that people are used to when it comes to their church family. 

“Church is hands on,” she said. “It’s hugging. It’s kissing.”

“This is a collaboration between science and really every person in the country.”

Both Huffman and Metcalf hope that by sharing, not just as scientists but as brothers and sisters in Christ, they can help to clear up some of the confusion that has caused many to wonder whom they can trust. 

“This is a collaboration between science and really every person in the country,” Huffman, said.


Click here for a full list of resources Huffman shared with The Christian Chronicle.


“We have to think about the bigger picture and care for one another, even people you don’t know,” Metcalf said. “You have to care and love these people.”

Filed under: Church of Christ Churches of Christ Coronavirus COVID-19 covid19 dangers of singing is singing dangerous meeting meeting inside National News Top Stories Uncategorized worship

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