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John Yeager_01

The weekend of Oct. 16-18, Cabell County was designated green on the state school map. Yet in this same time frame, according to The New York Times, the county jumped to seventh-highest in cases for West Virginia.

Due to the stay-at-home warning issued by the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, and in spite of the “green” designation, the church I pastor decided to provide only a remote service on Facebook Live and YouTube.

I wondered, “How could the county be green on the school map yet have the seventh-highest number of cases in the state?” Then I remembered hearing how in September the state changed the way cases are counted.

On Oct. 19 I spoke with an official at the health department and she explained that for the school map, all positive cases among populations living in congregate settings, such as nursing homes and correctional facilities, count as a single case.

Dozens of cases in these communal settings now count as one case. This belies the fact that employees, suppliers, and others walk in and out of these facilities daily. So there it is. Then while 220,000 Americans have died, they can undercount the cases, paint the map “green” and say we are doing great.

I am highly sensitized to the impacts of COVID-19 due to the death of a friend of mine here in Huntington because of the virus. He was my age (60-something) and my height and build (husky). He did not have any serious underlining health problems as far as I know — maybe high blood pressure.

He worked retail, so he was in frequent contact with many people. He was just doing his job, like so many others who have been sick or died because of the virus.

Who knows how my friend caught the virus? I cannot help wondering if he had protected himself inadequately (with mask wearing and social distancing). If so he may well have been a victim of misleading information emanating from the White House and echoed by certain local politicians and even some churches.

I’ve seen too many cases of churches opening with full-voiced singing and few in the pews wearing masks or keeping enough distance from others. In such cases the virus can spread like wild fire, as indeed we know it has in several West Virginia churches.

What’s worse is when pastors are complicit in spreading the lies that downplay this virus and its consequences. Our president and some of his defenders are turning these pastors into liars for the sake of political gain. Have they forgotten the commandment against “bearing false witness”?

Church leaders and other leaders: Speak the truth about this pandemic. Do not allow it to be used as a political football (i.e., suggesting that wearing a mask denotes “weakness”). Have your people wear masks. Don’t sing as a congregation, but rely on a soloist. Provide hand sanitizer. Practice social distancing.

Spread the good news of the gospel — not the bad germs of this virus!

John Yeager is pastor of Enslow Park Presbyterian Church. He retired as an assistant chief from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District office.

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