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Individual Responsibilities

Faith Community Gathers To Prepare For Coronavirus

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located at 410 N. Main St., Jamestown, hosted a meeting with county health care officials, local foundations and leaders of the faith community to discuss coronavirus preparedness Tuesday afternoon. Attendees sat spread out to accommodate the state’s request for proper spacing during public meetings. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

It’s not the first time the faith community in Chautauqua County has gathered to help those in need, but it was the first time the spiritual leaders came together to prepare for the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located at 10 N. Main St., Jamestown, hosted a meeting of church leaders throughout the county, who were joined by health care officials and local foundations, to start preparing for the possible scenario that the coronavirus will eventually affect people in Chautauqua County.

Jim Sherry, Chautauqua County Health Network executive director, said the first thing faith community leaders should try and do is to help manage the possible panic that their congregation might be feeling because of the coronavirus. He said the best way to manage panic is with accurate information. He added that faith community leaders should also continue most of their normal routines the best they can under the circumstances.

Sherry said heads of community churches are important leaders during a time like a pandemic because they can communicate effectively with their congregation on what needs to be done.

“You can put people at ease,” he said.

Sherry said it’s a good time for all people, not just seniors who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus, to practice health habits. He said people should continue to exercise, eat healthy and manager their health issues to the best of their abilities. He added that smokers should try to quit, even if it’s just for a short period of time, because the coronavirus impacts people with respiratory problems more than those who don’t.

“We all have individual responsibilities. Things we can do,” he said.

Sherry said the last place people who believe they have contracted the coronavirus should go is the hospital. He said the over-populating of hospitals could hurt those that are sick because they won’t be able to receive needed treatment. He added if someone believes they have the coronavirus that they should call their physician first, not go to a hospital.

“That’s not where you go right now,” Sherry said about going to the hospital.

Sherry said it’s his opinion and hope that the COVID-19 won’t impact Chautauqua County that adversely, but residents need to be prepared.

One question asked was about whether churches should still host burials. Sherry said burials should still take place and said panic has been created in other parts of the world when everyday life rituals, like a burial, haven’t taken place.

Another question asked was about nutrition for seniors in their community. Sherry said programs that help feed seniors in the county could be impacted negatively like Meals On Wheels. He said not only does Meals on Wheels serve food to the elderly, but many of the volunteers are also seniors, who might want to be isolated during the pandemic. He asked faith community leaders to reach out to their congregation to make sure seniors receive the nourishment they need.

Lacey Keefer Wilson, Chautauqua County Office of the Aging nutrition director, also said a plan is being implemented by county health care officials to make sure senior food security is done. She also asked faith community leaders to ask their congregation to volunteer for services like Meals On Wheels because it’s likely more senior citizens will sign-up for the food service.

Keefer Wilson said the state has a hotline, 888-364-3065, to answer questions. Also, she said people can call NY Connects at 753-4582. NY Connects is a number people can call for free, unbiased information and assistance for links to long term services and supports, such as home care, transportation and meals.

Amy Rohler, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County executive director, announced that community foundations met Tuesday morning to create a COVID-19 emergency fund. She said the process to apply for funding hasn’t been completed yet, but details will be released at a future date. She added that the United Way is also making a list of organizations who need volunteers.

The Rev. Luke Fodor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church thanked all those for attending the meeting and said faith community leaders will be meeting again Thursday via an online chat to continue the conversation on how to help the community in the coming weeks.

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