COVID-19: Preventative Practices and FAQs for Churches
Churches are encouraged to prepare for the possibility of a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in their congregations. Each church is independent and should make their own decisions regarding services and outreach. President Trump issued guidelines for America entitled, “15 Days to Slow the Spread” (attached below). The information included are merely ideas that contain facts from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to assist you with your decision-making process.
What is the Role of the Church and COVID-19according to the CDC?
Faith-based leaders continue to be valuable sources of comfort and support for their members during times of distress, including the growing presence of COVID-19 in different parts of the country. As such, these leaders have the unique ability to address potential concerns, fears, and anxieties regarding this illness. Additionally, by reiterating simple hygienic precautions and practices, these leaders can broadly promote helpful information, managing fear and stigma, and restoring a sense of calm into the lives of those in their congregations when social distancing is the new “norm”.
What do we know about COVID-19?
Our government officials are urging everyone to stay home as much as possible, for at least the next 2 weeks, to decrease the spread of this VERY contagious illness referred to as “COVID 19”. Here are some things we all need to be aware of over the next several weeks and perhaps months:
• COVID 19 is contagious and is airborne. According to the CDC, it is a “new disease and we are still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the U.S.”
• It is spread from person to person. President Trump issued a
• If hospitalized, 20-30% of pts with COVID 19 and pneumonia require ICU for respiratory support. The majority of patients who have been in ICU thus far were older (>66 years old)
• No specific pharmaceutical treatment is currently available for COVID 19. Time, rest, social separation, hydration and Tylenol are the suggested treatment options available today.
• Mild Symptoms typically appear 2-14 days after exposure and may include (but not limited to):
-Fever -Cough -Shortness of breath
• Emergency Warning Signs include (but not limited to): -Trouble breathing -Persistent pain or pressure in the chest -New confusion or inability to arouse -Bluish lips or face
IF someone is experiencing these warning signs, they should NOT WAIT but SEEK
MEDICAL ATTENTION ASAP
• As a resource if you, or a loved one, feel the need to “self-check” you may access this link to the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker to find out if you need to be tested: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/index.html
• People with confirmed COVID-19, with a loved one in the home with a confirmed case, or those experiencing symptoms should remain under home isolation. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with health care providers and state and local health departments.
• For more information go to: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html
• Information is available in English and in Spanish at the CDC.
How can our church plan and prepare?
Develop a communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information to the congregation.
• Outdoor signage, bulletins, social media updates, email, text messages, phone calls, etc.
• Remind congregation that this is temporary and that the goal is to come back to meet in the church building to resume scheduled meeting times.
Make PLANS to STAY Connected
Identify actions to take if you need to temporarily postpone or cancel events, programs, and services, especially for groups at greater risk such as older adults or people with chronic health conditions. Here are some suggestions and ideas for staying in touch with your congregation as well as developing new ways of communicating:
• Develop “calling trees” or other practices to account for individuals who may be living alone, elderly, and vulnerable. Make sure members have a current copy of the church roll that includes names, phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, etc.
o Assign a “buddy” to check on each other within the congregation.
• Consider using technology to make services available. Facebook live, email links to audio/visual services, TikTok for children’s Sunday school classes, ZOOM interactive, Facetime (small groups), etc. Have a plan in place for those who may not have internet (eg. DVD’s, CD’s or jump drive) for recorded services.
o Consider dressing appropriately for Sunday Services when streaming. Even if it is in your home, the more “normal” the service…the lower the panic and anxiety of the situation.
o Consider having familiar items in the background when filming (if not in church building).
o Minimizing panic and stigma is done by taking thoughtful preventative measures
• Email bulletins (if still using paper bulletins) or mail them. Post e-reminders on your social media pages or church streaming channels.
• Mail Sunday school papers to young children and teens. Make it a fun and engaging experience. Example: bring back completed papers when we meet again (for a prize, etc.)
• E-prayer chains – suggest to members to send prayer requests to Pastor, or designee, to send to everyone on a text or email group. Be careful doing this if there are larger groups as it can lead to constant messaging.
• Stay busy in God’s work by continuing various service ministries where available. Sending cards, checking on each other and even calling are great ways to stay focused on our mission of The Great Commission.
• Provide ways of sending/collecting tithes and/or donations. It sounds insensitive to talk about this but it is a question that has been asked, “where do I send my tithe?”.
Promote the practice of everyday preventative actions
• Frequently wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (example: sing to yourself “Jesus loves the little children of the world”). If soap and water are not readily available use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow.
• Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, especially your eyes, nose, or mouth
• Stay home when sick. Don’t be a hero. There is no shame in staying home if you are ill.
• Don’t shake hands. Develop a “No offense, it just makes sense” process. This can be an “air handshake” or even the American Sign Language sign for “I love you”.
Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies at your church during meeting times (e.g., soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash baskets, and a couple of disposable facemasks, just in case someone becomes sick during an event).
Take Action Sooner than Later
Stay informed about local COVID-19 information and updates. Valid and frequent updates may be accessed by the going to the CDC website (Center for Disease Control).
Put your emergency operations and communication plans into action. Communicate with your members if events and services are changed, postponed, or cancelled.
Emphasize everyday preventive actions through intensified communications with employees and visitors to your organization.During an event, if someone becomes sick separate them into an isolated room and ask them to leave as soon as possible.
Most of all…Pray for:
Our church families
Our Pastors and workers
Healthcare workers on the front lines
Family and friends
Our country and leaders
Medical Treatment cures
Forgiveness for ourselves and our country
Stay in the Word, Lean on the Lord, Stick to the Stuff
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Center for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/ ; ABA Disaster Relief Ministry Information for Churches/ABA/CDC/cparrish3-