We are beginning to see hummingbirds on our feeder so I grabbed a picture from Unsplash, though I’m not certain that the image above is from a Ruby Throated. Anyway, that image strikes our feeling for the beautiful hummers that visit our feeder daily.

Congratulations to Francis Collins:

(RNS) — Francis Collins, world-renowned geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health, is the 2020 recipient of the Templeton Prize. The award, valued at 1.1 million British pounds (about $1.3 million), honors individuals who use scientific advancements to answer the deepest questions related to humanity’s existence and purpose.

Collins is perhaps best known for leading the Human Genome Project, which successfully mapped and sequenced the 3 billion DNA letters that compose the human genetic instruction book, and for advocating for the holistic integration of Christian faith and science. Today he is the longest-serving director in the history of NIH, the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world.

The prize, established 47 years ago by John Marks Templeton, an American-born British investor, has been awarded to Collins as he and his agency are working at the forefront of developing treatments for the novel coronavirus.

“I’m spending 100 hours a week trying to make sure were bringing every kind of idea, capability and resource toward finding treatment, vaccines and diagnostic tests,” he told Religion News Service after learning that he had won the prize.

The award also comes as religious leaders in the United States have quarreled with politicians and public health experts over the proper balance of faith and science, with some Christian pastors advocating for opening their churches against the recommendations of state officials.

When asked about churches reopening, Collins responded that he deeply values in-person worship. “At the same time,” he said, “I think as Christians we have to have as our No. 1 priority that we are going to care for the sick and the vulnerable. I cannot see, therefore, that it’s justifiable to bring large numbers of people together even in the name of worship, because of the risk it carries.”

Collins said every church gathering should be concerned about transmitting the virus, and that it will remain unsafe to gather in churches until there is “a lot more testing capability” to ensure the virus is no longer present in a congregation.

Collins also expressed concern over the number of Christians who have fallen prey to conspiracy theories surrounding the spread of the coronavirus.

“It is troubling that in our nation that prides itself on being technologically advanced, the current circumstances — particularly on social media — make it so easy for things to spread that are simply not based on facts at all,” he said. “I would particularly urge Christians, who believe in God’s truth in all things, to be sure that they are vetting whatever they are seeing.”

One of Illinois’ basketball and coaching greats, Jerry Sloan has passed away. I want to stake a small claim here: I was born in the small town in which he was a basketball star (McLeansboro), and my father was a coach at a small school nearby (Dahlgren): Link

Born and raised in Gobbler's Knob, 15 miles (24 km) south of McLeansboro, Illinois,[6] Sloan was the youngest of 10 children and was raised by a single mother after his father died when Jerry was 4 years old. He would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to do farm chores and then walk almost two miles to get to school in time for 7 a.m. basketball practice. Sloan graduated an all-state player from McLeansboro High School in 1960.

Congratulations to these pastors and churches:

As a coalition of Church Leaders in Oregon, we feel compelled to stand together in our response to how and when we reopen our Sunday worship gatherings in light of Governor Kate Brown’s phased rollout plan.

We believe the body of Christ is called to be both a faithful presence and prophetic witness to our cities and towns. We stand on the reality that the people of Jesus have worshipped historically and globally under all circumstances, including threats, war, and persecution. Following our rich Christian history, we can take any form to express our worship of Jesus Christ. From filling stadiums to gatherings of 2-3 people, Jesus has promised to be among us.

At this moment, the churches of Oregon continue to gather in homes and through technology. We look forward to gathering again in person, and yet, we are seeing God work in incredible ways as he draws His people into places of dependence, healing, repentance, and lament.

We stand together as pastors in our commitment to innovate and sacrifice so we can faithfully lead our congregations in worship and serve our neighbors. We agree to work together so that every person remains safe and the vulnerable populations in our churches and neighborhoods receive care. We agree to be good citizens as Scripture calls us to be.

We appreciate the complexity and unprecedented challenges our elected officials face. We desire that whatever plans are put forth by the Governor will take into account both the threat of COVID-19 and the social and economic implications of a prolonged stay-at-home order. We commit to continue worshipping in new ways and serving our city courageously and generously while employing the safety protocols recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

We choose to comply with the Governor’s phases at this time. We will seek ways to learn from one another, innovate together, and be a collective witness of God’s love and salvation during a challenging time for our entire world.

We will continue to pray for our state and local leaders, for their health, safety, wisdom, and perseverance. We appreciate the countless hours they have worked. We pray that the flourishing of Oregonians will be valued over party politics and personal power by both the state and the church.

We applaud our front line workers, who carry burdens few of us can imagine. We grieve with those who have lost loved ones during this season. We pray for those who have lost jobs and businesses and all those suffering financially. We pray for our houseless neighbors, those facing food insecurity, those who are home but not safe, and all others affected by this crisis. We hope you will find the churches of Oregon to be good neighbors who love and care for the flourishing of our cities, families, and neighborhoods.

We stand together for the strength of the church and the health of our cities.

Thank you Kristen Padilla!

The beers of the Belgian Trappists:

WESTVLETEREN, Belgium (Reuters) - Belgian Trappist monks who brew one of the world’s most coveted beers have reopened for business after a two-month break, though COVID-19 restrictions mean they can only supply local rather than international demand.

The Saint-Sixtus abbey, home to 19 monks, launched an online sale on Thursday evening of 6,000 crates, with pick-ups starting Friday. Exceptionally, customers can buy three crates. Normally it is just two.

Customers can come as usual by car, but are told not to leave their vehicles while queuing until they pass a newly installed traffic light before the pick-up point.

There, a lay worker in mask and gloves passes their 24-bottle crates through a small gap in a plastic screen. Payment must made electronically, not with cash. The nearby cafe serving the beers remains closed.

Demand is no issue. Brother Godfried said there were 5,000 new online accounts created from Wednesday to Thursday, bringing the total to 35,000.

“The picture is a bit distorted as for now we can only offer on the Belgian market. The borders are shut, even though the beer draws a certain international interest,” he told Reuters.

The monks sold a few cases in advance to test their new system. Thomas Vuylsteke, a 33-year-old lawyer, was one of the lucky recipients.

“Well it has been selected a few times as the best beer in the world and it is really tasty. It’s always great,” he said.

Flor Holvoet had driven two hours to get to the abbey.

“For me it was very important because actually it was the first opportunity to do a real trip again, have a reason to come out again,” he said.

COVID dining shields:

PARIS (Reuters) - A romantic dinner for two. The wine is excellent, the food delicious. It’s almost like the good old days. Except for the giant, see-through lampshades on your heads.

For restaurant owners worrying how they can welcome back customers but keep them safe from COVID-19, a French designer has created a cylinder of transparent plastic that hangs from a cable on the ceiling, much like a lampshade. A scoop cut out of the back allows diner to sit and stand up without having to bend over double.

Christophe Gernigon, who invented the device, called the Plex’Eat, said the designs already on the market looked like booths in prison visiting rooms, so were not inviting for customers.

“I wanted to make it more glamorous, more pretty,” he said. His design will go into production next week, and he said he had received interest from France, Belgium, Canada, Japan and Argentina.

France is starting to relax some of the restrictions it imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Shops and hairdressers have re-opened, and some children are back at school.

But the government has yet to give the green light for the re-opening of restaurant and bars because they pose particular problems for disease control.

Diners cannot eat while wearing a surgical mask, and if tables were removed to ensure customers are a safe distance from each other, many owners say they would not be able to make enough money to cover their costs.

COVID dogs:

LONDON (Reuters) - Dogs’ ability to sniff out whether people are infected with COVID-19 will be put to the test by British researchers, in a bid to develop a fast, non-invasive means of detecting the disease.

Britain’s government said on Saturday it had given 500,000 pounds ($606,000) towards the research, which will be conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Durham University and a British charity, Medical Detection Dogs.

“Bio-detection dogs already detect specific cancers and we believe this innovation might provide speedy results as part of our wider testing strategy,” innovation minister James Bethell said.

Six dogs - labradors and cocker spaniels - will be given samples of the odour of COVID-19 patients from London hospitals, and taught to distinguish their smell from that of people who are not infected.

Medical Detection Dogs said it had previously trained dogs to detect certain cancers, Parkinson’s disease and malaria.

If successful, an individual dog could check up to 250 people an hour and be used in public spaces and at airports.

Researchers in the United States and France are attempting to train dogs to detect the disease too.

Herd immunity?

Climate scientists are frustrated by people who do not believe in climate change. In epidemiology, our frustration is with anti-vaxxers. Most anti-vaxxers are highly educated but still argue against vaccination. We now face a similar situation with ‘anti-herders’, who view herd immunity as a misguided optional strategy rather than a scientifically proven phenomenon that can prevent unnecessary deaths.

Because of its virulence, wide spread and the many asymptomatic cases it causes, Covid-19 cannot be contained in the long run, and so all countries will eventually reach herd immunity. To think otherwise is naive and dangerous. General lockdown strategies can reduce transmission and death counts in the short term. But this strategy cannot be considered successful until lockdowns are removed without the disease resurging.

The choice we face is stark. One option is to maintain a general lockdown for an unknown amount of time until herd immunity is reached through a future vaccine or until there is a safe and effective treatment. This must be weighed against the detrimental effects that lockdowns have on other health outcomes. The second option is to minimise the number of deaths until herd immunity is achieved through natural infection. Most places are neither preparing for the former nor considering the latter.

The question is not whether to aim for herd immunity as a strategy, because we will all eventually get there. The question is how to minimise casualties until we get there. Since Covid-19 mortality varies greatly by age, this can only be accomplished through age-specific countermeasures. We need to shield older people and other high-risk groups until they are protected by herd immunity.