In this week’s news round-up, AdventHealth begins experimental COVID-19 therapy, the Cook Islands Adventist Church will resume full services, a Marshall Islands missionary will stay despite U.S. call for citizens to return home, and a Tennessee Adventist community ministry continues operations in midst of tornado damage and the pandemic.
AdventHealth in Florida Begins Experimental COVID-19 Therapy. AdventHealth in Florida has begun an experimental COVID-19 therapy that uses plasma from recovering people to help patients who are critically ill, joining a small cadre of hospitals in the nation that have taken the lead in adding the treatment to their arsenal in fighting the new coronavirus. Called convalescent plasma, the therapy can potentially lessen the severity of COVID-19 infection and shorten its duration. The therapy has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in severely ill patients.
“The rationale is that this plasma contains antibodies against COVID-19, and it will help the patients fight the infection,” said Dr. Juliana Gaitan, medical director of transfusion services at the Central Florida division of AdventHealth. The health system is partnering with OneBlood, which recently put out a call for COVID-19 plasma donors. OneBlood is also working with the Florida Department of Health to identify people who have recovered from the infection as potential donors. From Orlando Sentinel, “Plasma from recovered coronavirus patients to be used as treatment at AdventHealth.”
Cook Islands Seventh-day Adventist Church First to Resume Full Services. For many Cook Islands church-goers, the reopening of church services this weekend will be music to their ears. The Seventh-day Adventist Church will be first to resume full services on Saturday, and others will follow on Sunday. On April 17, Prime Minister Henry Puna thanked God for giving people courage and strength during the country’s greatest threat in modern history. He said hundreds of COVID-19 tests taken in the Cook Islands had come back negative, and the country can officially be confirmed as a Covid-free zone — one of the first nations in the world to do so.
Seventh-day Adventist elder Vaopaaki Tearetoa and his wife Ngatereapii have two pews at home. They said they had not missed a Sabbath during church closures. But as long as the directive had come from Te Marae Ora, the health ministry, they would be happy to return to church. “I would hate for the work of the ministry and others to be undone,” Vaopaaki Tearetoa said, cautiously.
Ngatereapii Tearetoa said she would stay at home for now and worship on Sabbath days with her children and grandchildren. She used the guidance of her faith in every aspect of her life and said she prays for her brother, the Prime Minister “during these times.”
All schools will reopen on Monday, domestic travel restrictions to and from the Pa Enua (outer islands) will be lifted, non-contact sports can resume, cafés and restaurants can open for normal business but with physical distancing in place, and restrictions on the sale of alcohol will be reviewed. From Fiji Times, “The Cook Islands declared COVID-19-free.”
Marshall Islands Adventist Missionary Teacher Plans to Finish School Year Despite U.S. Call for Citizens to Return Home. Jeff Fennell, a missionary working in Majuro in the Marshall Islands as a teacher for the Seventh-day Adventist School, has considered whether to leave his post due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. Fennell said he hoped to finish out the school year, which normally wrapped up at the end of May. "As nice as it would be to go home, I have really loved becoming part of the Marshall Islands community, and I felt like the Lord was calling me to stay and finish the school year with these amazing students," said Fennell.
A large group of missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints departed the Marshall Islands and Kiribati on a specially chartered Fiji Airways aircraft due to the pandemic. At least 44 missionaries boarded the flight in Majuro, which followed a similar number getting on the flight in Tarawa, capital of Kiribati.
"It has been very difficult to know whether I should stay or leave," said Fennell. "The U.S. is urging all citizens around the world to come home, and it's been a hard decision.
"I know these (LDS) guys loved the Marshall Islands and I don't think they wanted to leave. They will be missed."
Marshall Islands government officials have discussed closure of all schools in the country as a COVID-19 response, but put the plan on hold pending confirmation of a case of COVID-19. All schools are being allowed to remain in session. There are no confirmed COVID -19 cases in the Marshall Islands, making it one of fewer than 20 countries globally that do not yet have the coronavirus. In an effort to prevent COVID -19 in the country, the Marshall Islands has banned inbound arrivals by air since March 8. It extended this ban Friday through May 5. From RNZ, “Missionaries return to US from Marshalls and Kiribati.”
Tennessee Adventist Center Continues Operations Despite Tornado Damage, Coronavirus. If not for the coronavirus, the Samaritan Center, a community ministry of five Seventh-day Adventist churches, would have been a first stop for help for Chattanooga residents affected by recent tornadoes. Even while the Lee Highway storefront is closed, the agency is serving clients, just not in the conventional way.
"We're working by proxy — by phone and email and fax," said social services director Sharon Smith-Hensley, who has been fielding requests from families within the organization's East Hamilton County service area, which includes East Brainerd and Ooltewah, two of the communities hardest hit by the storms. Preliminary property assessments indicate more than 1,000 structures were damaged in Hamilton County, with at least 344 completely destroyed. The storms ravaged much of Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia, killing at least 11 people and displacing 450 people.
Smith-Hensley said it's been all hands on deck for her. "We get the information over the phone, load [the food] up in a cart and pass the cart through the door, so we're limiting exposure," she said. "They load their car and leave the cart on the sidewalk. Then we disinfect it before we bring it back in." The thrift store and donation center have been closed since mid-March, so for now the only donations the center can accept are monetary. "It's just us," Smith-Hensley said. "We do the best we can. We treat each client fairly and try to look at each one's needs instead of 'here's a rubber stamp' kind of approach. That's the privilege of being a faith-based institution and not bureaucratic."
The Samaritan Center has been a resource for people in need since it opened in October 1986. The center provides help with utilities, rent, and life-sustaining medications; food through a Community Food Pantry; clothing, furniture and household items through a thrift store; cleaning supplies and personal care products that cannot be purchased with food stamps; baby layettes filled with newborn necessities; school supplies, and toys. From Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Samaritan Center helping East Hamilton County tornado victims 'by proxy.'”
Please note: Spectrum news round-ups are an aggregation of regional, national, and international publications around the world that have reported on stories about Adventists. As such, the accuracy of the information is the responsibility of the original publishers, which are noted and hyperlinked at the end of each excerpt.
Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Yucaipa, California.
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