Proposed COVID policy effective June 19th, 2022
COVID-19 is likely with us to stay and when we come together in our new building we must have a plan for safely gathering. After consulting the evolving UUA guidelines and talking with medical and public health professionals, the GMUUC COVID Task Force prepared the following guidelines.
We want input from the congregation. After the service on June 12 we will host a forum so as to clarify expectations, allow everyone to ask questions, and generally discuss the plan. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to Rev. Charlotte.
GMUUC Worship in the Time of COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down GMUUC worship as we traditionally knew it in March, 2020. Unlike many churches, we immediately went into “virtual” mode. Volunteers jumped in to provide the existing Worship Committee with the technical assistance required to offer interactive services via Zoom. Those services have been popular, with average attendance comparable to what we would see in our face-to-face meetings. They have also expanded our reach to members and visitors far beyond our immediate region. Indeed, we have had new members join our congregation who never previously stepped into our building.
We are now ready to move into our new building. We will resume face-to-face services while continuing the virtual service option (multi-platform). We are fortunate in the timing of the design of our new building. With the onset of COVID-19, our Design Team thoroughly researched and made optimal choices for our ventilation and air filtration systems. Rather than simply circulating existing air, our ventilation system is designed for rapid fresh air replacement. Our air filters are at the highest conventional rating (MERV 13), sufficient to filter out water droplets and other particles which may carry COVID.
Even though the counties we serve have recently achieved a safe COVID status (CDC designated “green”), cases are on the rise in much of this country and abroad. The newest omicron variant is even more easily transmitted and scientists are now saying we may have to learn to live with COVID, as we live with the seasonal flu.
Guiding Principles for Decision Making
We seek to balance the need for engagement and community with the need for responsible public health practices.
As we “learn to live with COVID,” individuals are encouraged to take responsibility for their own immunity and decisions regarding managing risk of infection.
We will refer to up-to-date medical and public health information from reliable sources. As local transmission rates vary, we may need to make adjustments.
Attendance at GMUUC
We strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to be fully vaccinated and boosted as per recommendations by medical authorities.
Unvaccinated attendees must wear a mask at all times, unless a negative COVID test has been performed within the past 72 hours.
We ask people to not attend in-person services and events if:
They have COVID-19 symptoms.
Are awaiting results of a COVID-19 test.
Have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last five days, even if they are symptom free.
Recommendations for GMUUC worship:
Masks will be optional for all gatherings at GMUUC. Masks will be made available for visitors upon entry to the building.
Because of their physical distance from the congregation and their known vaccination status, the choir may sing unmasked. Members of the choir can wear masks if desired. If congregants wish to sing along with the choir, a well-fitted and properly worn mask is required.
Proposed Protocol for COVID Exposure
1) If you have been to a GMUUC event and later test positive for COVID:
To remain in covenant with one another, it is of the utmost importance that you notify Rev. Charlotte immediately upon realizing that you may have potentially infected other people at GMUUC. Try to remember everyone you were in contact with (talking, eating, etc) for more than a few minutes at a distance of 6 ft or less. Hugging for even a few seconds would also qualify as close contact. Please tell Rev. Charlotte who those people were. Be assured that we will keep your identity confidential from this point on.
The people with whom the infected person came into close contact with will be notified via email.
2) If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID:
You will receive an email from Rev. Charlotte informing you of the exposure. Sample text:
We have learned that you may recently have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19 while attending (date of service or event). Know that your health is our number one priority and that we are in full support of you, your family, and others who may have had similar contact. To this end, we ask that you follow the guidance below to best ensure your health and the health of others:
Self-monitor your health following the CDC guidelines in the link below.
If symptoms develop, self-isolate and please notify us to help in our contact tracing efforts.
Also notify anyone you have come in contact with about your condition and request that they self-isolate and self-monitor for symptoms and follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
When you notify us, be assured that we will maintain your confidentiality. We know that this is an uncertain and difficult time and we affirm that you are not alone in this journey. Please contact us with any questions or concerns you have.
3) If you receive an email from Rev. Charlotte that you have been potentially exposed to COVID, we ask that you please let her know if you develop symptoms or test positive, even in the absence of symptoms. This is to help us keep accurate records and make any further decisions to ensure the health of the congregation.
Q: There is so much information, and disinformation, out there about COVID. How am I to make sense of what I need to pay attention to?
A: That is indeed true which is why we have created this space to help with that situation. The UUA is a good place to start. They have been using COVID-ActNow site which is a non-profit site dedicated to providing information. The CDC is, of course, another place for reliable information. The information does change all the time which makes it hard to keep up with what is safe, etc but that is the nature of a new pathogen that has killed almost a million people worldwide.
Q: What does the UUA recommend and/or what are other UU congregations doing at this time?
A: The UUA has detailed guidance which GMUUC is and has been monitoring from the beginning. Their recommendations are followed by most UU congregations. That information can be found at: https://www.uua.org/leadership/library/delta-guidance. The current COVID policy for GMUUC follows their guidance but we are in a severe risk area for transmission so even with good masks, social distancing, and good ventilation indoors the situation is risky for gathering in-person. From the UUA site linked above:
In areas where transmission risk is Very High or Severe, (per the COVID Act Now data), suspend all large, in-person (indoor and outdoor) gatherings such as worship, concerts, or fundraisers.
Q: I am vaccinated and boosted. Isn’t it safe for me to go out and about and be with others who are similarly protected?
A: From the CDC: When infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be milder than among those who are unvaccinated. Even vaccinated people who are infected can be infectious and can spread the virus to others. To reduce the risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 and spreading the virus to others, everyone should continue to use layered prevention strategies.
Those prevention strategies include effective masks, social distancing, and good hygiene. Just because you are vaccinated you can still contract COVID and pass it to others even if you have no symptoms.
Q: Looks like I need to buy more masks and/or how long can I wear my current mask?
A: That is a good question and this article can help: https://apple.news/AtQbFCU4GRf-flUJTD-bs0g.