In the SNEUCC Conference CT, MA, RI each have slightly different timelines for lifting restrictions on gathering. All three state coronavirus websites offer advice to help us discern where and when a fully vaccinated person should still wear a mask for the protection of those who are not yet vaccinated. Face coverings will still be required on public transportation, in healthcare facilities, in schools, childcare and congregate care settings. Children 12 and under are not eligible yet to get vaccinated therefore teachers and school staff must also still wear masks.
Because worship services and Sunday school classes may be like school settings, I encourage churches to err on the side of caution. Just because most restrictions are lifted for fully vaccinated people who are two weeks past the final dose of the vaccine, does not mean they lifted for all. Those who are not yet vaccinated are still vulnerable.
These are difficult decisions affecting health and overall well-being for individuals, and communities. I hope this discussion gives some insight. We have reached a point where it is hard to be specific. Our faith tells us to take care of all, to make sure all are welcome, that our services are accessible and safe for all. This should be our guide.
Philippians 2:4 ESV “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”.The following questions posted in the blog Should We Gather or Not? May be helpful in discerning the next steps for your congregation:
- What are the public health department guidelines in your community?
- What is the local infection rate? Vaccination rate?
- How prevalent is community spread for Covid-19 variants?
- What are the demographics of your faith community?
- People of color, older adults, immune compromised people, high risk individuals with chronic disease, vaccinated or not vaccinated, children.
- How effective is the ventilation in your space?
- Can you ensure air exchange of a certain number of exchanges per hour?
- Can you ensure that everyone wears a proper face covering?
- The Mask should be two or more layers thick, fit snuggly against the sides of your face, have a nose wire to prevent air leakage.
- Can you ensure that everyone’s mask fits properly without air leakage?
- What is the risk level you are willing to accept?
- Prayerfully consider your answer to this question.
- It will not be zero even if you do everything right
May 19, 2021, remaining capacity limits for businesses, activities and gatherings are lifted however, social distancing and masks in schools, healthcare settings, public transportation, and other establishments that choose to require masks. The guidelines published early in the pandemic to refrain from live singing during worship have not yet been changed.
See the CT Covid Rules Vaccinated info sheet
Effective May 29, 2021, Advisory Regarding Face Coverings and Cloth Masks. Face coverings will still be mandatory for all individuals on public and private transportation systems (including rideshares, livery, taxi, ferries, MBTA, Commuter Rail and transportation stations), in healthcare facilities and in other settings hosting vulnerable populations, such as congregate care settings.
May 21st Rhode Island Fully Vaccinated Guidance Update FAQ provides detailed guidance. All physical distancing and capacity limits will be lifted, and masks will not be required for Fully vaccinated people. Schools, childcare settings, healthcare settings, public transportation still require masks, and other establishments may choose to require masks.You can find detailed recommendations in RI Protect Your Household Guidance.
Here are some interesting discussions on the topic.
May 14, 2021 Sojourners Do the New CDC Guidelines Mean a Return to In-person Worship?UCC Tuesdays for Nurture May 11th webinar recording: Where do We Go From Here: COVID-19 in 2021
Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels
Deborah Ringen is the Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC.