Organ pipes in the Sanctuary of First Church in Cambridge. A wrought iron chandelier hangs in the foreground.

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First Church Shelter News

January 17, 2021

Dear First Church,

We have sad news to share. We recently learned of our first two cases of COVID-19 at the First Church Shelter, this after 10 months of being COVID-free. Cambridge Pubic Health and the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) were notified immediately; they began administering rigorous contact tracing, advising us on isolation measures for those exposed, and ensuring that all guests and staff were tested. Results of those tests finally came through yesterday morning. Sadly, we learned that there are now 11 cases amongst the guests and 5 amongst the staff, including Jim Stewart. All are relatively asymptomatic so far, and we pray this continues to be the case.

Over the course of the day yesterday, in consultation with CHA and MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency), we were able to quickly relocate all guests and to temporarily close the Shelter to prevent further spread. The COVID-positive guests are now staying in private rooms in a state-run hotel with 24-hour nursing care for COVID-positive homeless people.

We are grateful to Jim Stewart, along with staff at CHA, MEMA, and the temporary shelter on Green Street, who have done extraordinary work to help make the above changes happen so swiftly. Please pray for all guests and staff who tested positive, that may remain comfortable, get the rest they need, and return to health soon. We also pray for all who may have been exposed and who may be worrying or awaiting test results.

Finally, two uplifting notes: First, to have made it 10 months without a case is surely a testament to the steadfast care of our First Church Shelter and their diligence in following safety protocols. Kudos to Jim and the Shelter staff for their truly remarkable efforts to date!  And secondly, though we wish it had come earlier, we are grateful to report that all Shelter staff received vaccinations this week. As soon as it is safe for guests to return, the Shelter will reopen and continue to move from strength to strength.

Yours in faith,

Dan Smith, Senior Minister
Mary Robinson, Moderator
Don Johnson and Jan Lo, Shelter Oversight Committee Co-Chairs


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