A Shared Mission of Healing

Clergy Letter – In the time of COVID-19 and Influenza

Sep 18, 2020 | congregation, Coronavirus

coronavirus clergy flu covid


Dear Clergy Partner:

First, our heartfelt thanks to you for the care of your members and neighbors during this extraordinary time of COVID-19. As a minister, I am very proud of the ministry of health practiced by my clergy brothers and sisters just as I am proud of my medical colleagues here at Wake Forest Baptist Health. Your advocacy of social distancing and mask usage has helped to keep people healthy and has saved lives in the midst of a devastating pandemic. Together we have provided extraordinary care in anxious and extraordinary times.

The coming influenza (flu) season brings additional worries, as the flu and COVID-19 share many signs and symptoms.1 (Exhibit 1) Our patients will be anxious as to whether they have the flu, are infected with COVID-19, or both. Likewise, the medical community is concerned as we anticipate diagnosing an influx of patients with each or both of these illnesses and with the uncertain effects of having both illnesses at the same time. It is very important that we, in partnership, address this issue through the administration of flu shots.

I’m asking that you strongly encourage your congregants to receive flu shots between now and the end of October. While they can receive the flu vaccine later than October, the time for optimal vaccination has already begun.

For those without a medical condition restricting them from receiving the flu shot (they should confirm this with their health care provider), receiving the vaccine lessens the chance of getting the flu. For those who receive the vaccine yet still get the flu, their chance of being hospitalized with the flu is reduced by about 40%.2 Flu shots can save lives.

Clergy education events

On a separate subject, please consider joining us for our upcoming clergy education events focused on improving health through the faith community. Upcoming seminars will focus on many aspects of aging, mental health, serious illness, and social influencers of health. Registration information will be placed on our website and through email notifications. For those of you who missed our first webinar, please see the recording of Dr. Werner Ernst-Bischoff as he discussed “Safer Physical Re-gathering for your Congregation”. The watch a recording of the session, click HERE.

Again, thank you for the care of your congregants for entrusting us to care for them in our clinics and hospitals. Together, we embody the move from ‘Faith and Health’ to ‘FaithHealth’.

F Keith Stirewalt

Program Director – FaithHealth Clinical Medicine
Wake Forest Baptist Health


  1. Centers for Disease Control. Similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19. Updated August 31, 2020. Accessed September 14, 2020.
  2. Centers for Disease Control. Vaccine effectiveness: how well do vaccines work. Updated January 3, 2020. Accessed September 14, 2020.

Exhibit 1: Common Signs and Symptoms of Influenza and COVID-19

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • In some, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)1


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