We have been in touch with the local primary care offices and urgent care, and boruch Hashem we have not heard of any new confirmed COVID cases in the Crown Heights Jewish community. We hope that at some time in the near future we will have developed an effective vaccine and we’ll all be equally protected, but until that time there will remain an element of danger whilst socializing with others. That risk is not equal for all. Both the individual as well as the situation, along with the extent of social distancing and personal protection, will determine any one individual’s risk of ch”v contracting the disease.
As discussed in previous updates, the presence of antibodies OR a clear history of the illness indicate a significant interaction with the virus, and we suspect and hope that these individuals are protected at least in the short term. These individuals are also unlikely to be infectious to others for the time being. In addition, current thinking is that children probably do not play a major role in transmitting the illness. Of course, applying general principles of virology in the face of a truly “novel” virus is tricky at best. However we must move on from here (whilst we are still learning) and we thus make the following suggestions, hoping that all will be well.
It is unclear what percentage of children with symptoms develop antibodies (given how mild their symptoms are and lack of clarity concerning antibody response in children), although an initial analysis of 300 Crown Heights children suggests that about 50% of children in our community have antibodies. In the adult population, the majority in this community have interacted with the virus (evidenced by their illness, antibodies, or both). This therefore leads us to reasonably assume that there is a substantial degree of immunity locally within our community. Given what we know about the infectivity of this virus at this time, the population of “immune” members of the community will hopefully provide protection for those who are older (or have underlying health issues) and have not been sick. We are therefore no longer advising these at risk individuals to strictly isolate and remain indoors. However, there remain many unknowns about this virus, and therefore these at risk individuals should be very careful when they do socialize or leave their homes. While they may associate with family and Crown Heights residents, perform errands, and go on other necessary outings, we strongly encourage them to observe strict social distancing, mask use, and frequent hand washing, especially while interacting with people who may not have had the illness.
It is this immunity perspective of our own local community which cautions us against mingling with those from other communities to the extent possible, particularly where there is active virus and/or many individuals who have not been sick. This is the basis for our request asking people not to come visit Crown Heights for the foreseeable future, including gimmel Tammuz, as outlined in the recent letter. It is for this reason as well,why indoor weddings with out of town guests causes us such concern – the general risk of a crowded indoor gathering is significantly compounded by the presence of visitors from other communities and countries.
In a similar vein, when it comes to local day camps over the summer, we are advising that only local Crown Heights children attend. Under those circumstances, the risk is very low and we are therefore not advising that children be tested for antibodies or the virus prior to day camp (and neither is such testing mandated by NY state law).
Overnight camps have been prohibited from operating in New York State. With respect to overnight camps occurring in states where they are allowed, we believe once again that if Crown Heights children are in attendance, antibody or virus testing in these children would not be necessary. The relatively low prevalence of antibodies and very uncertain history of illness in children make it difficult to assess risk in this group, although we remain reassured by the relatively mild course in the vast majority of children.
With respect to shuls, many shuls have begun reopening in limited capacity. Given the indoor nature and potential for crowding, we continue to advise appropriate distancing within the shul to the extent possible, and discourage older at risk people from attending for the time being. (For this reason, kiddushim/farbrengens in shul pose a challenge, due to the significantly increased chance for breakdown of distancing, with no masks.) A similar approach is advisable with respect to the men’s mikvaos, to operate in a way that optimizes distancing while discouraging those older at risk individuals from attending.
Anyone with new COVID-like symptoms, please log that here New COVID Registry. It is critical that you contact your doctor and arrange to be tested, and isolate yourself and any contacts that have not been sick. We will continue to update the community as things evolve and hope and pray that the reassuring trends continue.
Wishing everyone a good Shabbos,
– The Gedaliah Society in conjunction with Dr. Rosen