A Letter to the Sangha re: AZC Covid Protocols

Question: Once I am vaccinated, will I be able to come sit in the zendo?

Thank you to everyone who has recently inquired about returning to AZC to sit inside the zendo. For those of you who have already received a vaccination, how wonderful! We imagine it being hugely relieving to be < 95% protected from becoming ill with covid symptoms.

Please know that we deeply share your wish to once again be able to sit at the temple. Based on our CDC & APD-informed covid protocols, it has been since mid-March that we’ve been able to sit in the zendo ourselves, and we can say it’s been very challenging to be so remote.

Currently, our policy is that no one is allowed to enter the building except for:

1. Residents who live inside the main building,
2. Those required to support special ceremonies, and
3. Contractors working on repairs & maintenance.

The Board of Directors & Practice Committee have *just* started to think about policies for re-opening to the public.

As we don’t yet know whether receiving a COVID-19 vaccine prevents one from spreading the virus to others (even if asymptomatic), how long immunity lasts after vaccination, or how effective the 3 vaccines are to multiple variants, we currently plan to remain closed to the public until Austin Public Health returns to a risk-factor of Stage 1. We are in the process of developing protocols to allow for our *fully vaccinated* members & supporters to join in-person indoor events as we build back our volunteer crew of ceremonial attendants (Doanryo) who support our daily activities of zazen & chanting services.

We apologize for any distress this may cause. Please rest assured that our intention is to re-open as soon as we’re confident about not putting our residents and other sangha members at undue risk for illness.

We thank you for your enthusiasm and interest in returning to AZC for zazen. Please know it is shared by many of us! In the meantime, stay tuned here on our website for future developments, fill out our re-opening survey HERE, and we hope you join us in our online zendo.

With warm bows,
Rev. Dōshin Mako Voelkel
Head Teacher of AZC