Dear Klal Yisroel:
I gave a talk tonight, motzei Shabbos Parshas Shmini, discussing the state of the art regarding COVID-19, a deadly machalah that has been particularly dangerous for our communities.
I described in detail why it is a matter of pikuach nefashos at this time to maintain maximal social distancing, including, I am so sad to have to say, not allowing minyanim. I heard the Novominsker gadol, ztkl, say to me on a phone call just two weeks before his petirah from this machala: “What is the question – it is a matter of pikuach nefashos.” Every gadol I have spoken with, across the entire United States, has echoed those words. I have received many phone calls from rabbonim and askonim asking me to state my opinion what should be our approach at this time.
Therefore, it is with a very heavy heart that I must emphatically say: As of today, I absolutely am convinced it is still a very real sakanas nefashos to step even a little bit back from our maximal social distancing.
Most NY hospitals have not yet gotten out of the “overwhelmed stage.” My hospital has BH gone from 400 COVID patients to now 300; from over 100 ventilated patients to 75, which represents a huge medical problem still. Be’ezras Hashem we will continue to see such improvement – but only if we do everything possible to prevent new cases from spreading.
There are reports from South Korea of 160 COVID patients with two negative tests subsequently getting a new positive COVID test. Similar reports are noted from Japan and China as well.
We still do not know and cannot state with certainty who is truly immune and for how long. We still do not know what antibody tests mean. There is much yet still to be learned.
Based upon all of the available medical evidence, it is way to soon to declare victory and return to normal. We must, very sadly, at this time, continue the life saving changes and draconian measures that we have been doing – including, very sadly, no minyanim yet. I say this as a person who never missed going to minyan, and as one who hopes iy”H very soon to return to that situation. But not yet.
In the zechus of following the holy words of our Torah, venshmartem meod as nafshoseichem, may we be zocheh to davening betzibbur together in the near future at the right time.
Hashem yeracheim aleinu ve’al kol Yisroel.
Rabbi Aaron E. Glatt, MD, FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA