By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
Like many of you, much of my attention over the past few weeks has been consumed by the coronavirus outbreak across the world, but especially in our region where, tragically, 15 people as of today have died of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who passed away and our wishes for a full and speedy recovery to those suffering from the virus.
The health and safety of our Jewish community is our top priority. We have been diligently monitoring developments in connection with the outbreak, gathering information, and stepping up our ongoing preparedness activities through our SAFE Washington program. You can find a link here to news and resources that will be updated on an ongoing basis.
The Federation represents our Jewish community within the Washington Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WAVOAD) network, which brings together both organizations and faith-based groups engaged in disaster preparedness and planning. We have been communicating with other groups involved in WAVOAD and meeting with government officials at the Washington Emergency Management Division to stay on top of the situation. We are diligently sharing best practices and updates with our Jewish organizations through SAFE Washington as they become available.
While there is still much to learn about the virus, the best available science indicates that 80 percent of patients who contract COVID-19 will have mild, flu-like symptoms. Those at highest risk are over the age of 60, those who have underlying health conditions, and those who are pregnant. More detailed information about COVID-19 is available from the following sources:
Each of us has a responsibility to keep ourselves healthy and avoid spreading illness to others. Please stay home if you or someone in your household is ill. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Disinfect surfaces regularly, as viruses can survive on surfaces for 4 to 9 days. Limit personal contact. Avoid handshaking; for now, a nod and a smile are the safest ways to offer a friendly greeting.
The decision to hold a large public gathering and other group event is a matter for careful consideration. The Federation has postponed the Community Trip to Israel that had been scheduled for May 31 – June 10, 2020 until 2021. We made this difficult decision because of uncertainties surrounding the outbreak locally and concerns about the safety of overseas travel at this time. We are looking at new dates in 2021 and will share those with the community when they are confirmed.
One more point that bears emphasis – coronavirus does not recognize race, ethnicity, or nationality. Discrimination will make the situation worse. COVID-19 has prompted a campaign of xenophobia against the Chinese-American community across the U.S., and many Chinese-owned businesses have been affected by misinformed concerns. Along with 73 Jewish organizations across the country, the Federation signed a letter expressing support for our friends and neighbors in the Chinese-American and Chinese communities to ensure that they feel safe and to combat attacks and stereotyping. We are reaching out to local Chinese-American and Asian-American organizations to express our solidarity. People of any particular ethnic background are no more or no less vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. In other words, we are all in this together.
Your Federation will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely, keep our community updated, and share information and resources as they become available.
As a community, we will get through this situation and do all we can to safeguard our health and well-being. Together, we are stronger.