25 years ago I spent two semesters learning Greek in seminary. I never expected that my refresher course would come by way of a pandemic — first Delta and now Omicron. As Omicron begins to spread from state to state, we wait again in uncertainty. Will the current vaccines work? Is it more contagious? Are its effects more severe? We wait as we have before. “Omicron at Advent”… there’s a sermon there.
But it’s not exactly like it was before. We have learned things. We are creative, resourceful, and resilient. We can lean into that. We know we can go “hybrid” in our worship. We know about wearing masks, and getting the “jab,” and practicing social distancing. We also know that there are those people who need more support than others. At FaithX one of the ways we identify people more impacted by Covid is by utilizing a data tool called the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). The SVI uses U.S. Census data to determine the social vulnerability of every county and tract. The CDC ranks each county and tract on 15 social factors, including poverty, lack of vehicle access, and crowded housing, and groups them into four related themes:
- Housing Composition and Disability
- Minority Status and Language
- Housing and Transportation
The closer a neighborhood is to the number “1” the more vulnerable that population is to environmental pollution and weather extremes, to poor health access, and to other social problems. Think about it: If you make little money, if you have a disability, if you are reliant on public transportation, if you do not speak English well, if you live in a densely populated apartment complex, you are more likely to fall through the cracks.
Take a look at this historic neighborhood in Richmond Virginia. Note that the SVI score is .83 indicating a very vulnerable neighborhood.
Right across the street, the SVI is .28. These are single family dwellings with people who do not rely on public transportation. They are more likely to have health insurance, speak English, and because of their resources, less likely to be disabled.
As Omicron spreads, we can remember what we have learned. At FaithX, we have learned that neighborhoods with a high SVI are more likely to suffer from the effects of a Covid breakout and get sicker. It seems there is an invitation here, not only to engage safe practices for ourselves again, but to ramp up our support and advocacy for vulnerable populations. How will you support your vulnerable neighbors? If you are interested in an SVI map for your neighborhood, you may request one here ($25 for the map and $200 if you desire consulting as well).
Emily Dickinson writes, “In this short Life that only lasts an hour, How much – how little – is within our power. “
How will we use our power for the sake of others this holiday season?