Updates from the FPC COVID-19 Re-Entry Task Force

If you have questions or comments, please direct them to the RETF chair, Lucy Kernodle at lkernodle@bellsouth.net

Update from the FPC COVID-19 Re-entry Task Force, February 4, 2021

Nearly 11 months ago, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and Governor Cooper issued an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency in North Carolina, followed shortly with additional Executive Orders prohibiting mass gatherings and closing public schools. We have passed through an initial Stay-at-Home order onto some gradual reopening of the state and back into a modified Stay-at-Home order which has been extended through the end of February.

Over this interval, we have all adjusted to wearing masks, remaining physically distant when meeting people and washing our hands. We have also begrudgingly accepted significant modification and restriction to the habitual events of our lives. Nothing about our lives remains untouched by the influence of the pandemic. At times, it feels interminable and devoid of hope.

However, as we write this update, NC’s new case incidence, hospitalizations and daily mortality numbers while still of very significant concern, are the lowest they have been since early December and may be on a sustained decline. Moreover, two vaccines are now being distributed and a third is likely to be approved for emergency use any day now. So there is reason for hope that things can continue to improve.

The FPC COVID-19 Re-Entry Task Force (FPC RETF) continues to:

  • monitor dashboards of county, state and national data to evaluate measures of community burden and risk associated with COVID-19 spread;
  • monitor and consume governmental policy and advisory documents from federal, state and local agencies, informed by the context of our own situation;
  • monitor and consume guidance produced by national and mid-level church organizations along with re-entry plans developed by specific churches (most of which are here in North Carolina).

We have added monitoring the advent/approval of vaccines and vaccine distribution plans in North Carolina as well.

As a result of these continued efforts, FPC RETF can share (and reshare, in the case of the last item):

  • The Salem Presbytery COVID-19 Response Task Force met on January 21 to update its November guidance that church buildings remain closed through February 1. Given the state of viral burden in North Carolina, the Salem Presbytery COVID-19 Response Task Force continues to recommend church facilities in Salem Presbytery remain closed to in-person inside gathering until at least May 1, 2021. The FPC RETF concurs with this recommendation and FPC will continue to hold worship virtually through this interval and limit in-person activities in the church to 50 people outside and 10 people (15 in Calvin Hall) inside per our earlier guidance from the fall. You may access the Salem Presbytery guidance directly at https://www.salempresbytery.org.
  • Limiting in-person gathering, particularly inside, does not mean we cannot continue to plan and hold activities outside. Our youth and children’s activities will continue to be outside (or held virtually to accommodate weather conditions). As the weather warms, we hope to have more opportunities to see our church family on the FPC Campus outdoors.
  • FPC RETF will continue to review plans for a return to in-person inside gathering so that when conditions allow, we will have plans in place that will mitigate risk of viral spread.
  • On Friday, January 22, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in concert with the North Carolina Council of Churches, offered a webinar entitled, “The COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy and the Church.” This webinar included a 30 minute presentation on the status of both the virus and vaccines in North Carolina. The shared presentation can be accessed here (https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/COVID19-Vaccine-101-Deck-Final.pdf). It provides information on the development of the vaccines including a review of safety information.
  • Lucy Kernodle and Beth Hooten participated in the webinar and learned the following:
    • Given where we are with COVID-19 cases in North Carolina (99 counties are in the red or orange classifications on the state’s county alert system), NC DHHS strongly recommends that faith organizations continue to gather virtually. If gathering in person, NC DHHS strongly recommends that people avoid singing to reduce risk of aerosolized viral particle spread. If and when we decide to reopen, it is recommended that FPC RETF follow as many of the guidelines in NC DHHS Guidance for Places of Worship as possible (https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/guidance/NCDHHS-Interim-Guidance-for-Places-of-Worship.pdf). These included symptom/exposure monitoring, universal use of masks, physical distancing and hand washing.
    • North Carolina is currently vaccinating Group 1 (health care workers or long-term care staff/residents) and Group 2 (adults 65 years old and older). Many of FPC’s members may fall within one of these two groups and the FPC RETF encourages you to get vaccinated as it will help us as a community to eventually return to in-person inside activities.
    • The next group to be vaccinated will be frontline essential workers, which includes people who must be in-person at their place of work AND work in one of the 8 essential sectors recommended by CDC. One of these sectors is Government and Community Services, which includes clergy and essential support for houses of worship. More details can be found in the NC DHHS Deeper Dive Group 3 (https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/vaccines/Deeper-Dive-Group-3.pdf). This means our clergy and church staff will be able to be vaccinated in the next group. FPC RETF will work with our staff to facilitate this process as having our staff vaccinated will also move us closer to being able to return to in-person indoor activities.
    • Churches have critical roles to play in helping to address the pandemic. These include providing reliable information to members, helping people who need assistance in navigating the process to obtain the vaccine and as the distribution process expands, potentially serving as a vaccination location (perhaps in partnership with neighboring congregations). The FPC RETF is considering ways in which we may be able to serve as a vaccination location as availability improves in the coming months. Additionally, we encourage our members to connect with the RETF with questions and concerns. We are here to be a resource to you as we navigate the pandemic.
  • NC DHHS now has several resources (in addition to the links above) with information on vaccinations. The main page (https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines) contains two links. One which will help you figure out which group you fall into for vaccination and the second will help find locations near your home where you may access vaccine administration when it is your turn. FPC RETF recommends and encourages us all to get our shot when it is our turn.
  • Getting vaccinated significantly reduces your risk of a serious or fatal disease experience with COVID-19. What we do not know is how it affects the transmissibility of the viral particles should you have a mild or asymptomatic infection. So we remind you of the following:
    • Evidence continues to mount that the virus that causes COVID-19 is predominantly spread via aerosolized particles. Wearing a mask over the nose and mouth reduces the likelihood that anything one exhales reaches another person. We should all wear masks to protect others and expect them to do the same to protect us. FPC RETF recommends and encourages you to wear masks when around people with whom you do not live or with anyone who may have exposure to situations in which viral spread may occur.
    • Separating by at least 6 feet when we are in a store, a line, etc. also helps minimize viral spread.
    • So does limiting the amount of time you spend in indoor situations in the company of people with whom you do not live. This means carefully considering risks associated with indoor events like eating at restaurant or gathering with friends. Outdoor options when available are better alternatives for mitigating the risk of viral infection.
    • And washing your hands can help prevent the transfer of virus particles from surfaces to your face.

We mourn the toll of illness in our world and community. We grieve the loss of those who have died. And we hold the grieving near in care and prayer.

Even in the face of loss, there is hope yet to be found. What we have given up by not congregating has not been for naught. It has kept ourselves and others safe and well.

Vaccines will become more and more available. We just must find our patience (think on Job) and when it is our turn, get in the queue.

The way through this pandemic is together and as spring arrives and the weather warms, it will be easier to gather outdoors (masked and physically distant). Eventually, we will be in communion with one another in person.

We pray for continued reduction in disease burden in our community, improved vaccine availability and widespread adoption of immunization and lastly, for population (herd) immunity – estimated for COVID-19 to be 70-90% of the population possessing immunity to the virus.

Until that day, do all you may to remain safe and protect those around you.

Faithfully,

The FPC COVID-19 Re-Entry Task Force

Chair: Lucy Kernodle (lkernodle@bellsouth.net)

Members: Gene Grimley, Beth Hooten, Wendy Lunsford, Allison McHugh, Kris Moffitt, Amy Richardson, Bruce Shields

Ex-Officio Members: Taylor Barner, Patrick Murphy, Charlotte Nance-Allbright, Ron Shive

 

First Presbyterian Congregational and Campus Use Activities: General Policies (REVISED 24 August 2020)

Additional resources:

Alamance County Specific Data Dashboards:

https://apps.alamance-nc.com/COVID

https://covidactnow.org/us/north_carolina-nc/county/alamance_county?s=1273304

North Carolina Data Dashboards:

https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard

https://covidactnow.org/us/north_carolina-nc?s=1273304

https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/outbreaks-and-clusters — of particular note, weekly report on clusters by source (first link on the page)

Guidelines for Places of Worship:

https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/guidance/NCDHHS-Interim-Guidance-for-Places-of-Worship.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/faith-based.html

 

FPC Guidelines Shared

With our church family, our response must be one of caution and as such, we have developed guidelines, in effect for the foreseeable future, to help mitigate risk of disease transmission. We will continue to review the current situation and provide regular updates to the FPC Session and by extension, the FPC Congregation.

At the August Session meeting, the RETF shared two documents: 1) General Guidelines for FPC Activities and 2) Pastoral Care Guidelines. These documents are intended to foster understanding of the guidelines and processes we have developed for small group activities as well as supporting our pastoral staff in providing care to the congregation. Copies of these two documents are linked below.

These two documents helped to inform work to develop specific and consistent guidelines for other activities on the FPC Campus including the Furniture Ministry, use of the Garrison Joyner Building, Funerals and Weddings, and staff and parent policies for both CDC and Playschool. Copies of these additional documents are also available at the link referenced above.

These documents are not static as our policies will likely change as the pandemic experience in North Carolina changes. We may adjust guidelines to be more or less restrictive depending upon morbidity and mortality burdens experienced locally and in North Carolina as a whole. FPC policies are based upon guidance provided the federal Centers for Disease Control and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and are subject to any mandate issued by the North Carolina Governor.

FPC Guidelines Summarized

Generally – one is safer at home, particularly if you fall within the identified higher risk groups (e.g., those 60 years or older, those living with significant health risks, and those living with family members with compromised immunity). Each member of the FPC family is cherished and we encourage each person to evaluate their own risk when making decisions to join in collective activities.

We strongly recommend that all events/activities/gatherings be held using virtual technology, whenever possible, for the foreseeable future. This includes most pastoral care visits.

When the decision is taken to meet at the FPC campus or in person, each person should assess their recent history with regard to COVID-19 exposure including responding to questions about symptoms (new or recent onset of a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or recent loss of taste or smell) and interactions with those who may have been ill. Temperature checking procedures are also a tool we may employ.

People who have been exposed to someone with symptoms of COVID-19 or a confirmed COVID-19 case within the last 14 days will be required to stay at home. Further, to keep our church family safe, people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will be required to stay at home. They should remain isolated and may not return to FPC activities for 14 days and they are asymptomatic or have a negative COVID-19 test.

If they cannot be held virtually, we strongly recommend that all events occur outside, without the use of restrooms, to accommodate physical distancing. Attendance at groups meeting outside must not exceed 50 people. If necessary, and with specific approval, only one set of restrooms (e.g., on the black and white hallway) will be made available and these must be cleaned after each event.

In-person, indoor activities are limited to those specifically required for the completion of FPC Session approved mission activities (e.g., Andrews Elementary feeding programs, the FPC Furniture Ministry) and are limited to 10 people (15 in Calvin Hall). All events will occur in Calvin Hall or the Witherspoon Room or in the Furniture Ministry Office. They must be scheduled at a time to avoid any interference with the normal operations of CDC. All precautions should be taken to avoid any exposure of CDC children and staff to event participants.

For these indoor, in-person events, only one set of restrooms (e.g., on the black and white hallway) will be made available and these must be cleaned between events.

Events are restricted to Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

No group will have access to the kitchen facilities within FPC to accommodate food safety preparation requirements for CDC.

For groups assembling at FPC to travel to off-campus activities, transportation arrangements should limit exposure (e.g., no more than two passengers excluding the driver per passenger car).

All events must be submitted through an online portal for approval. Additionally, online resources will afford the ability to record contact information of all event participants so that it is possible to track and trace viral exposure.

All participants should practice the three W’s – Wear a face covering, Wait six feet apart, and Wash hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer!! Face coverings must cover the nose and mouth.

Failure to follow these policies will result in participation prohibition for subsequent FPC activities.

Click the linked documents listed below to view and print.

First Presbyterian Congregational and Campus Use ActivitiesREV10SEP2020

Event Participant GuidelinesREV10SEP2020

Event Participant Form 10SEP2020

First Presbyterian COVID-19 Pandemic Pastoral Care PolicyREV10SEP2020

FPC COVID-19 Exposure Response Confidentiality08SEP2020

COVID-19 Wedding ProceduresREV10SEP2020

RETF Wedding and Funeral PolicyREV10SEP2020

Garrison Joyner Building Protocol for Use REV10SEP2020

Furniture Ministry COVID-19 GuidelinesREV07SEP2020

CDC Parent ProtocolREV30Sep2020

CDC Staff ProtocolREV30Sep2020