It’s hard to believe that we sent our first letter about the pandemic nearly a year ago. We continue to be grateful for the many ways you are showing God’s love in caring for our community. Your acts of generosity are inspiring. Across our health system, our staff have been moved by cards, posters, contributions towards care packages and sponsorships of hot cocoa and cookies by local faith communities. There is no end to the abundance of love in our midst. We are still a long way from the end of the pandemic, so we continue to welcome your prayers and vigilance in combatting this deadly virus.
We wanted to make you aware that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recently announced plans for how the State will move to Group 3 for COVID-19 vaccines. On February 24, the state began to prioritize anyone working in child care or in PreK – 12 schools.
On March 10, the state plans to move to additional frontline essential workers. Clergy who must attend work in person are also considered essential workers in Group 3. See the link for NCDHHS Group 3-Frontline Essential Workers here [r20.rs6.net]. You may be cleared to receive the vaccine beginning March 10, but we will not know for sure until the State makes that announcement.
Please know that vaccine supply remains constrained. We are doing everything in our power to get as many vaccines to our community as quickly as we can. While the state may open vaccines to more frontline workers, it may still take some time. We value transparency and want to keep you as informed as we can.
As noted in our previous communications, our chaplains remain available to serve as your liaisons for spiritual care inside our medical centers until you feel safe enough to visit yourselves. We encourage you to call ahead to speak with a chaplain about visiting for you. During business hours, you may call the main number of any of our medical centers and ask to contact the chaplain. After hours, you may ask the hospital operator to page the on-call chaplain for you. We deeply value the relationship you have with your people and know that the decision to visit in person or not can be terribly difficult.
For additional information, please feel free to visit the COVID-19 vaccine site as well as information specific to faith leaders at the NC Department of Health and Human Resources.
Our health system also has a COVID-19 Hotline. Please call 336-70-COVID for questions and concerns. If you would like to talk with a chaplain and medical professional about COVID-19 concerns, Chaplain Keith Stirewalt, who is both a Chaplain and Physician Assistant, remains available by phone. You can reach him by calling 336-716-4746 and leaving a message.
As we seek to care for patients and families inside the walls of our hospitals, we hope that you will continue to care for the members of your faith community as well as those who are vulnerable around you. We need each other as we seek to care for those who are isolated from the communities that call them by name, particularly as we work to vaccinate as many as we can as quickly as we can.
On the heels of the last pandemic a hundred years ago, churches were instrumental in establishing Wake Forest Baptist Health, so we never forget our founding partners. We continue to value our shared ministry of healing, mercy and justice.
With gratitude and prayer,
Rev. Dr. Gary Gunderson and Chaplain Emily Viverette