Synod 2009 was barely underway when a gastrointestinal illness known as a norovirus started felling delegates and staff with surprising speed.
Over a four-day span, 80 people associated with synod were afflicted with the bug, the most common symptoms being severe stomachaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some people also experienced fever and head-aches. An additional 25 people—Trinity Christian College staff and others—were also affected.
The work of synod carried on despite empty delegate seats, and as the week wore on, those who fell ill early began to return.
Within hours of the outbreak, Trinity staff put in place a myriad of precautionary measures, from volunteers pressing drink-dispensers with napkins in the cafeteria to security staff periodically checking on each reported ill person in the Trinity dorms. Bottles of hand-sanitizing lotion appeared everywhere, people were encouraged to wash their hands often, and handshakes and hugging were practically placed off limits.
Two delegates were taken to a nearby hospital, one after collapsing following Monday evening’s plenary deliberations.
The Cook County Health Department was informed immediately of the outbreak. As a result, the Trinity dining facilities were inspected to make sure the illness wasn’t food-related, and the college received a near perfect report for its food service.
Trinity staff were lauded with a standing ovation by delegates at the closing service. “I can’t say enough about their response to the situation they found themselves in,” said Dee Recker, the CRC’s director of synodical services. “It was phenomenal; they did an unbelievable job.”
Pete Hamstra, Trinity’s vice president for admissions and marketing, said that once synod wrapped up, Trinity staff faced the daunting task of bleaching and cleaning the entire campus, right down to individual pens in the bookstore.
The synod office developed a comprehensive report on the week’s developments for the health department and will work to supplement the CRC’s protocol for situations of this nature in the future.