As the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread in various places around our world, we lift our prayers for those who have been infected by this virus, the families of those who have lost their lives, those who are on the front lines of bringing care and relief, and those engaged in making important decisions in this time.
As of March 4, over 75 countries and 13 states in the U.S – including NC, GA, and FL — have reported at least one confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Centers for Disease Control is providing a daily update of cases in the U.S.
While the presence and potential spread of this virus is of concern, church leaders can help support a measured and calm response by providing accurate information and assuring those we serve that needs and plans are being addressed.
PEC shares the following information, drawn primarily from publically available sources (with links provided for your further reference).
RISK ASSESSMENT (from the CDC, as of March 4):
At this time, however, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus. This virus is NOT currently spreading widely in the United States. However, it is important to note that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment will be updated as needed.
Current risk assessment:
- For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.
- People in communities where ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated though still relatively low risk of exposure.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure.
Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 Situation Summary
EVERYDAY PREVENTATIVE ACTIONS
The following everyday preventative actions are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily.
Here are the current recommendations regarding the use of a facemask:
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
GETTING THINGS READY AT HOME
The CDC has also provided detailed guidance for what to do at home before, during and after a COVID-19 outbreak in the community.
MONITORING THE SITUATION
Monitor your local news and public information for the latest updates, information and advisories. The Centers for Disease Control is maintaining a website with national information and updates.
State Health Departments where there are Southern Province congregations will provide more regional information about COVID-19:
IMPACT ON CONGREGATIONS
If a significant outbreak occurs in an area in which we have congregations, this may impact many of the usual activities of our churches. This is especially true for congregations which have childcare or preschool programs. The CDC has prepared interim guidance for schools.
While it is not the case now, if a significant outbreak occurs government officials may ask churches and other groups that conduct public assemblies – such as worship services – to modify, postpone, or cancel such gathering for the safety and well-being of participants and the community.
We encourage pastors and church boards to begin a conversation about the prevention measures listed above, and what preparations may be needed in the event of a significant outbreak of COVID-19 in your community.
Some areas to address:
- If we have a childcare or preschool are we prepared to act promptly to follow any official instructions?
- Do we have a way to be in regular contact with the congregation via technology such as email, social media, or other channels?
- How will we communicate with our congregation members and other participants should our worship services and other church gatherings need to be changed or cancelled?
- Have we provided key leaders, such as the church boards, with up-to-date contact information for the membership of the congregation?
- Do we have a “shepherding” plan, a telephone tree, or other systematic ways to check on the membership, and arrange for pastoral care needs of those who are in need?
- What steps can we take to provide an alternative way to join in worship, if needed (Via live streaming, Facebook, other social media, etc.)?
- Do we have, or can we set up ways that offerings can be received even when a worship gathering is not possible? (Do we have online giving, can we provide instructions for electronic funds transfers, etc.?)
The PEC will continue to monitor this situation and provide further information as needed.