We’ll Be Staying Home for a While

by Sue Ann Kendall, Chapter President

As you’re no doubt aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging in Texas. The Texas Master Naturalist program’s advisors and administrators are concerned for the safety of the members of our program, so they have had to come to some difficult decisions this month.

I attended the monthly meeting for Chapter Presidents yesterday, and it was a hard one. Mary Pearl Meuth and Michelle Haggerty patiently shared with us the data they have put together about COVID risks in the counties where there are Master Naturalist chapters. It didn’t look good. They divided the counties into red, yellow, and green, by relative risk, and there were only two counties with chapters that were green, and four yellow as of last Friday.

The yellow and red counties as of December 12, 2020. Map from the TMN COVID Response page.

Milam County was yellow as of then, but it’s predicted to be red by next Friday, when they will update the map again. What does that mean? Here’s what Texas Parks and Wildlife says for red counties:

Counties with two of three factors pertaining to positivity rate of greater than 8% or more, OR a rapid rise in cases OR a hot spot:
• No face to face Extension-hosted or Extension-sponsored events.
• No guest speaking or presenting at other entities’ events.
• No overnight events.

TMN COVID Response page follow the link to read more about the guidelines

Many attendees at the meeting asked about whether drive-by events, outdoor activities, or solo activities would be okay. The answer was a reluctant, “No.”

No one was happy about this turn of events, but the current guidelines are set until the end of the year. It sounded doubtful that anything would change after that, but we will keep checking.

Implications for Our Chapter

Last night we held a meeting with some of the El Camino Real board who have worked directly with our recently graduated training class, to figure out how to do the graduation event we’d planned for this Saturday (December 12). After I explained what I’d learned earlier in the day, we had no choice but to conclude that we have to cancel the event, even though it was going to be as safe as we could make it.

Even if Milam County stayed in the yellow, we’d have more than ten attendees, and that’s all allowed in yellow counties. Plus, since we would have Board members living in Bell and Williamson Counties at the meeting, we’d have to abide by red county rules, anyway. Well, that was no fun.

Plan for Graduates

Of course, we want to celebrate our new members! Here’s what we will be doing right now:

I will send certificates out as soon as I can get Floyd Ingram’s signature on the graduation certificates. These go to our fine new members:

  • 1) Connie Anderle
  • 2) Marian Buegeler
  • 3) Carolyn Henderson
  • 4) Samuel Jolly
  • 5) John Montgomery
  • 6) Kaitlyn Montgomery
  • 7) Eric Neubauer
  • 8) Alan Rudd
  • 9) Debra Sorenson

I’ll also sign the certificates for those who have passed their initial certification, which include:

  • 1) Connie Anderle
  • 2) Carolyn Henderson
  • 3) Debra Sorenson

Kathy Lester will send everyone their Chapter t-shirts.

Lisa Milewski will send pins to the new graduates and nametags to those who get them, as well.

We will wait to give new members their gift made by Pamela Neeley later, since the are delicate and expensive to mail.

Plan for Chapter Meetings and Activities

Since we don’t have any idea when we can resume in-person meetings, we will continue with our Zoom Chapter Meetings. Don Travis will send all our members the registration link, which will work for all 2021 meetings. They’ll still be the second Thursday of the month!

We will be sending links to TMN activities that can get us our Advanced Training and volunteer hours virtually, such as TMN Tuesdays and the upcoming Virtual Volunteer Fair. Keep your eyes open for the weekly email!

I just want to thank all of you for sticking with us this year. I know some of us are unable to do virtual meetings, and that means we miss being together. Let’s hope things will turn around with the new year and slowly but surely we will be able to get outdoors and do some community science work together again!

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