Citizens’ Climate and COVID-19

CCL Activities in this phase of the Pandemic - Feb 2021

Our work has changed dramatically since the pandemic began, but our commitment to enacting solutions to climate change has not diminished. 

We are now more than one year into this pandemic and we have seen waves of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths across our country. While there is some general consensus on what works to slow the spread, local responses and results have varied greatly.

We are now at a critical juncture. Our societal efforts at social distancing have not been enough to avoid the waves of infections we have seen so far. There is hope now that we have highly effective vaccines that, once widely distributed, will drastically reduce transmission and mortality rates. On the other hand we have the potential for new variants that are more contagious, possibly more lethal, and that might potentially evade antibodies from the current vaccines. 

Experts are currently saying that we must stay vigilant now in our social distancing so as to drive cases lower, reduce the chances for new variants to develop and spread, and allow us the time to get the vast majority of people vaccinated. Hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. 

For now, and until further notice, all CCL activities should remain virtual and not include any in-person gatherings. 

Of course the question then arises as to when in-person activities could begin again. So how will we know? Your main guide will be the number of new infections in your area. While vaccination rates will be important to watch, the real key will be when vaccinations have successfully driven down infection rates. If caseloads are still high, for whatever reason, we should continue our social distancing, because otherwise we will be contributing to even higher caseloads and more deaths. We are still evaluating what an acceptable local caseload would be to start allowing in-person CCL activities, but we are not generally close to that threshold yet.

You may be tempted to allow in-person activities for those who are vaccinated or presumed immune due to previous infections. At this point, CCL does not advise this. For one, the vaccines are not perfect and some percentage of people could still get sick and/or be able to pass on the virus to those who are not vaccinated. In addition, since not everyone has access to vaccines yet it creates difficult dynamics for some to be excluded from chapter activities. 

You may also be tempted to allow activities that follow certain protocols - e.g. outside events with everyone masked and 6 feet or more apart. While these would almost certainly be safer than activities without such protocols, it is clear that such guidelines have not been sufficient to contain the pandemic and people are still getting sick (either despite such protocols or from not following protocols). At this point CCL advises that in-person activities are not worth the risk of contributing to the ongoing public health crisis.

We will be evaluating the situation monthly and updating you with any new guidance. We are hopeful that at some point this summer or early fall we will see a dramatic drop in caseloads due to widespread vaccinations and when that happens we will be able to return to in-person activities.

Citizens’ Climate is working hard to support you, our community of volunteers, as we all face the COVID-19 pandemic and its wide-ranging effects. The health and safety of you, your families, and your communities are very important to us. Thank you for taking care of yourselves and each other through this crisis.

Because volunteer and public safety is a very high priority to us, CCL recommends that we keep all chapter activities virtual until further notice.  All CCL activities must, at a minimum, follow all local, state, and federal regulations and guidelines related to the pandemic (the Center for Disease Control is the best federal source of guidance). We understand that conditions around the country vary. We trust local chapters to make decisions about their local activities, while noting that accurate risk assessment amid this pandemic is difficult even for those trained in epidemiology and public health. If you would like help in evaluating risk please contact our COVID Response team Tony Sirna (tony@citizensclimate.org) and Don Addu (don@citizensclimate.org).

Through all of this, our commitment to solving climate change is undiminished. We know that many of you are able and eager to continue our advocacy work. Below are resources to support you during these uncertain times. There are many resources on CCL Community developed in a pre-pandemic world that have guidance that may not match with today’s circumstances. We trust you to adjust and adapt our guidance as appropriate for your local situation as we all work together to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

COVID-19 Resources for CCL