COVID-19 Advisory Task Force Recommendations

COVID-19 Advisory Task Force Recommendations

Revised June 24, July 7, July 20, August 20, September 1, September 10, 2020 Approved by the Board September 10, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play out, we as Unitarian Universalists and we as a UU congregation will continue to face uncertainty. The best we can do at any given time is to lean into our values as well as draw on the gifts and wisdom of our own people.

FUCV COVID-19 Protocols for Indoor Gatherings

FUCV COVID-19 Protocols for Outdoor Gatherings

References

  • Message from the UUA President: Updated Guidance for Gathering (May 14, 2020)
  • UUA Guidance on Gathering In-Person When COVID-19 Subsides (May 14, 2020)
  • UUA Guidance for Outdoor Gathering During COVID-19 (June 19, 2020)  
  • BC Ministry of Health, COVID-19 Guidance to Faith-Based Organizations (March 31, 2020) 
  • BC’s Restart Plan: Next Steps to Move BC Through The Pandemic 
  • Order of the Provincial Health Officer, Mass Gathering Events (May 22, 2020)
  • Faith Based Organizations: Protocols for returning to operation  (July 7, 2020)
  • BC Centre for Disease Control: Choirs and Bands.
  • FUCV Congregational Survey.                                

Values

We have articulated the following principles for thinking about when and how to go back. They are grounded in Unitarian Universalism’s deep values:

  • Our abiding care and concern for the most vulnerable, inside and outside our congregation;
  • Accessibility and inclusion for all of our members and friends to participate in our congregation, regardless of health status, health vulnerability, or ability;
  • Recognition that we are part of an interdependent web and, as such, our risk-taking and our protective actions affect far more than just ourselves;
  • Ethical treatment and expectations for our leaders and staff, minimizing the risks to their own health and well-being;
  • Our affirmation that good science, coupled with our UU values, must be the basis upon which we make decisions about in-person gathering;
  • Commitment to our missions, community, and theology more than ever, mindful of the spiritual demands of this transition; and
  • Our deep hope that we as a country, and as a world, will not return to “normal” when the pandemic is over. We seek to live in “a new normal” of more justice, more love, more equity, more sustainability, and more peace.

These recommendations are a temporary response to COVID-19 and will remain in force until further notice or changes by the Province allow for or require revision. They will be under continual review. They may change as allowed or required by public health criteria, especially changes recognized by provincial public health authorities as justifying changes to provincial guidelines. However, the criteria will likely be more stringent than schools and businesses around you, for the following reasons:

  • The membership of the FUCV congregation is an older, more vulnerable population than the general public.
  • We do not want congregational staff and ministers to be put at risk.
  • A normally-operating congregation presents too many opportunities to spread a highly contagious respiratory virus like COVID-19 (for example singing has been reported to spread droplets at a greater distance than talking, interactions between age groups ranging from children to elders, etc.).  

Understanding the Risk

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads in several ways, including through droplets when a person coughs or sneezes, and from touching a contaminated surface before touching the face. Higher risk situations required adequate protocols to address the risk.

  • The risk of person-to-person transmission is increased the closer you come to other people, the amount of time you spend near them, and the number of people you come near. Physical distancing measures help mitigate this risk.
  • The risk of surface transmission is increased when many people contact the same surface, and when those contacts happen in short intervals of time. Effective cleaning and hygiene practices help mitigate this risk.

Impact on Church Activities

General: 

  • The Church office staff will maintain up-to-date contact information for staff and members of the congregation.
  • Record who is working each day and attending group activities and events.
  • Provide information and training to staff and members of the congregation about appropriate physical distancing, facility specific risk reduction measures and proper respiratory and hygiene practices.

BC Centre for Disease Control COVID-19 Guidance to Faith-Based Organizations (March 31, 2020) states:  “At this time, to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities, the Provincial Health Officer has ordered that no public gatherings or events of more than 50 people take place. If you are planning a smaller event, it is important to ensure that physical distancing is possible – so people are able to maintain at least two metres (or 6 feet) between them at all times. As there are now confirmed COVID-19 cases in all regions of BC, it is important for faith-based organizations to support clergy, workers, congregation members, families and visitors in staying safe and healthy.”

To help prevent COVID-19 virus transmission, the following are activities we should undertake:

  • Wherever possible, use online tools to connect with others virtually for services, meetings and events. Ensure that all who are involved enthusiastically support meeting in person before setting up all non-essential in-person services, meetings and events.
  • When we hold services, meetings, or events, it is recommended to wear masks indoors until seated. Once seated at a distance of at least 6 feet from others not in your bubble, masks may be removed. 
  • Remind congregants and members to stay at home if any of their direct family members (or people they have regular contact with) are unwell.
  • The most important thing we can do to prevent COVID-19 is to wash our hands regularly and avoid touching our face.
  • Ensure the washrooms are always well stocked with liquid soap and paper towels and that warm running water is available.
  • Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies during services or events, such as plain soap, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, tissues, and waste baskets.
  • Minimize person-to-person contact (e.g. no shaking hands, no hugs, do not pass the collection plate, do not light candles of joy and concern, do not use hymn books, etc.)
  • Instruct congregants not to share food, utensils, glasses and dishes (cease coffee after service, Souper Sundays, potlucks, etc.)
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, bathrooms and other surfaces (tables, chairs) at least once a day.

Worship:  Sunday morning worship will remain online until phase 4 of BC’s re-start plan which allows for larger gatherings (50 or more people) at a time.  This means we will plan for online worship through May 2021.  This may be revised if, for example, the BC government changes its guidelines.

A survey of church members and friends was undertaken in June to help the Board assess levels of risk tolerance. The results indicated that a majority felt vulnerable to COVID-19, and many were reluctant to take part in any in-person activities, especially indoors. A number of responses expressed concern to avoid setting up in-person church functions which would exclude those who felt unable to attend. Survey results can be found here.

There were also responses from some people who very much wanted to get together in person for worship and social contact. To facilitate this, it is proposed that volunteers be found to set up in-person viewing of Sunday services on Zoom, likely in the Lion Hall, for those who would like to attend. Protocols for indoors meetings would be observed (see below).

Other Gatherings:  We will follow BC guidelines for group meetings for each phase. We are currently in Phase 3, and need to follow BC’s Protocols for returning to operation.

  • Nobody should attend who has had any COVID-19 symptoms within the past 14 days. Anyone who becomes sick after attending a small  group meeting should follow BC Ministry of Health guidelines and the group should revert to online meetings;
  • Nobody should attend who has returned from outside Canada within the past 14 days;
  • Members should consider their underlying health risks before deciding whether to attend a small group meeting. This would apply to members who do not have any health risk factors but who live in the same household as someone at high risk;
  • No member should feel compelled to attend especially if they are at risk or would feel unsafe doing so. To foster greatest inclusivity, groups are encouraged to only meet in person if all group members are enthusiastic and feel completely safe doing so; we don’t want anyone to fret over deciding whether to attend or feel anxious about ‘holding the group back’
  • Seating must follow the physical distancing (minimum 2 metres/6 feet) requirement except for those members of the same household;
  • It is recommended to wear masks indoors while walking around. Once seated at a distance of at least 6 feet from others not in your bubble, masks may be removed. Attendees are encouraged to wear masks outdoors on pathways and in parking lots. Extra masks are available at the entry to the church;
  • During good weather it is better to meet outside on church grounds or elsewhere than to meet in the church;
  • Groups may meet in the church using the following criteria:
    • Farmhouse Common Room, no more than 7 people;
    • Lion Hall, no more than 25 people;
    • Sanctuary, no more than 41 people if singles, 50 people if some are couples or in the same bubble;
    • All other rooms (such as the library) are too small to permit safe occupancy for a group while still meeting the distancing requirements;
    • Room bookings, as well as outdoor meeting locations, should be booked through the church office.
  • See Appendix for detailed procedures for how to reserve space and cleaning protocols

SELCY programs and Library:

  • Out of an abundance of caution, SELCY programs remain online until phase 4.
  • Library borrowing is permitted as soon as a book return area is designated so that books can sit untouched for three days before being shelved.

Choirs and Bands (Musical Instruments):  If preventative measures are taken, risks can be minimized. It is important to use your judgement and comfort level, and consider your own health and the health of those in your group when deciding what activities to participate in.

  • Adults and children who feel well should sing or play instruments in small groups that are no larger than 50 and follow appropriate COVID-19 precautions (e.g. physical distancing, recording the contact information of participants, and regular hand washing) and Orders of the Provincial Health Officer.
  • Singing or playing instruments outdoors is best, or in a large indoor space with good ventilation. Avoid sharing equipment; if sharing must occur, clean and disinfect between users. If everyone is following precautions, there is no limit needed on the time spent singing or playing instruments.
  • Public health does not recommend that people who are more likely to experience complications of COVID-19 – including older adults – sing or play instruments with others in person.

Church Office, Staff and Ministers: 

  • FUCV has reduced the overall number of workers at the workplace at one time. This was done by implementing work-from-home schedules. Only the Office Administrator comes into the church office, and only on Monday and Thursday afternoons.
  • The COVID-19 Safety Plan required by Work Safe BC is posted in the office and can be read here .

Finances

  • Possible budgetary changes, revenue and expenditures are still being developed.

 

APPENDIX: Detailed Procedures

FUCV COVID-19 Protocols for Indoor Gatherings

Indoor Gatherings:

  • First step: a contact person should reserve the space with the church office.
  • The following spaces can be used: Farmhouse Common Room (up to 7 people); Sanctuary (up to 41 people if singles, 50 people if some are couples or in the same bubble); Lion Hall (up to 25 people). All other rooms are too small for group use.
  • Maintain social distancing of 6 feet between people except those in the same family/bubble. Six foot bamboo poles are available in the Sanctuary and the Lion Hall to measure safe distances.
  • It is recommended to wear masks until seated. Once seated at a distance of at least 6 feet from others not in your bubble, masks may be removed. Masks are available at the entry to the church for FUCV members who have forgotten theirs.
  • For each event, a contact tracing list shall be kept by the contact person to register individuals, which will list name, phone number and email address of each participant. This list will be handed over to the church office staff and kept in the church office for a minimum of 6 weeks. 
  • If any church buildings are entered, all touch surfaces (such as door handles, tables, backs of chairs) shall be cleaned using a dilute bleach solution [30 ml of bleach in a litre of water, or one cup of bleach in one gallon of water] in a labeled spray bottle and cloth rags.
  • Washrooms should only be used in emergency situations.
  • If the washroom is used the following shall be cleaned using a dilute bleach solution: toilet, toilet handle, water faucet, paper towel dispenser, both sides of the washroom door knob.

Cleaning protocols. Groups that meet in the Sanctuary, Lion Hall or the Farmhouse Common Room are responsible for cleaning washrooms, the church and room doors on arrival and again before leaving. 

  • There is a single dilute bottle of bleach and a wipe in each area open for meetings. Pump bottles of hand sanitizer will be provided in each area. 
  • Each person who uses a washroom is responsible for their own cleaning before and after use.
  • Each group is responsible for sanitizing door knobs they use and chairs and tables they touch.
  • Before the meeting and after each use, ensure that restrooms are sanitized, and that touch surfaces are cleaned using a dilute bleach solution (door handles, tables, chairs, sink, faucets, toilet flush handles, etc.). Each bathroom will be supplied with bleach solution and a wipe. 
  • Entry Doors: As much as possible, leave doors open to minimize touch contact. For example, all church entrance doors should be left open. Hand sanitizer bottles will also be supplied for each area of use, including the space you are meeting in.
  • Identify areas such as entries/exits or lobbies where crowding and bottlenecks might occur; use volunteers or barriers to redirect people who may gather in these areas. For larger groups, control entry to and exit from the meeting area before and after group activities. Consider staggering time of arrival or departure.
  • Greetings: Members should refrain from shaking hands, hugging or similar actions.
  • Food Services. Church food service facilities will remain closed. Members attending meetings should be encouraged to provide their own beverages and food and not share them with other members.

FUCV COVID-19 Protocols for Outdoor Gatherings

Outdoor Gatherings:

    • First step: A contact person should reserve the space with the church office.
    • Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 50 people.
    • Maintain social distancing of 6 feet between people except those in the same family/bubble.
    • It is recommended to wear masks until seated, then masks may be removed, but people may wish to wear masks at all times. People are encouraged to wear masks outdoors on pathways and in parking lots. 
    • Participants shall bring their own chairs and/or blankets.
    • Participants shall bring their own food, drink, dishes, and utensils.
    • Garbage bags shall be taken to each event; they will not be provided by the church.
    • For each event, a contact tracing list shall be kept by the contact person to register individuals, which will list name, phone number and email address of each participant. This list will be handed over to the church office staff and kept in the church office for a minimum of 6 weeks.
    • If any church buildings are entered, all touch surfaces (such as door handles) shall be cleaned using a dilute bleach solution [one cup of bleach in a gallon of water or 30 ml of bleach in 1 litre of water] in a labeled spray bottle and cloth rags.
    • Washrooms should only be used in emergency situations. Each person who uses a washroom is responsible for their own cleaning before and after use.
    • If the washroom is used the following shall be cleaned using a dilute bleach solution: toilet, toilet handle, water faucet, paper towel dispenser, both sides of the washroom door knob.