General COVID Protocols
The Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida
 
GENERAL COVID-19 GUIDELINES
 
Effective 11 May, 2021

 

 

As more persons become fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to update the public with new information and guidelines. These guidelines have shaped the revisions to our Diocesan COVID-19 protocols outlined in this document.

We are already aware that, according to the CDC website, “COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus. These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth. In some circumstances, they may contaminate surfaces they touch. People who are closer than 6 feet from the infected person are most likely to get infected.”

However, in one significant document, entitled “Choosing Safer Activities,” the CDC suggests that fully vaccinated persons can begin choosing safer activities and “start doing many things that [they] had stopped doing because of the pandemic.” For more information on this, you may go to:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/participate-in-activities.html

It is primarily within this context that the members of the Diocesan Regathering Team, in consultation with the Bishop, offer these guidelines for our Diocese. Some are new, while others remain the same. Bishop Eaton wishes, however, that, beyond the specifics of these guidelines, the clergy and lay leadership will make decisions on what is best for their churches, schools, and special ministries as they promote safe and healthy faith communities.

These guidelines are presented in the expectation that clergy leadership and vestries will decide their own level of comfort and risk tolerance. Due to the geographic spread of our diocese, there will continue to be varying statistical data across counties, deaneries, cities, and communities, as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the leadership of each community will need to give consideration as to how the virus is spreading within your particular community, the positivity rate of your area, and what is necessary and best to ensure the safety of your churches, schools, and special ministries. Consequently, because of these differences, our diocesan leadership does not want to be too prescriptive in response to the pandemic. However, the pandemic is still ongoing and unpredictable, and so vigilance and caution are still crucial.

 

General Guidelines

  • All individuals, whatever their age (fully vaccinated and unvaccinated), are still required to wear masks while attending worship and/or when present in any buildings on the church, school, or special ministry campus for whatever purpose.
  • Masks are required for all, including clergy, teachers, staff, and students, in our church schools.
  • Social or contact tracing is still required, and all records must be accurately kept for tracking and notification in case of positive exposure.
  • Full effectiveness of vaccination takes two weeks after the second or final dose.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals are to be mindful and respectful of unvaccinated persons and those who are still practicing social distancing.
  • Washing of hands and/or hand sanitizing is still required on entering any building on a church, school, or special ministry campus and throughout the time spent on the campus.
  • Temperature checks are no longer required.
  • Unvaccinated persons will continue to exercise social distancing of at least 6 feet, mask wearing, and hand sanitizing.
  • Social distancing of non-family groups with vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons shall remain at 6 feet.
  • Use well-ventilated spaces indoors, whenever possible.
  • The implementation policy of these guidelines will be determined by the clergy and lay leadership of the congregation, school, or special ministry.
  • Local leadership is free to have stricter policies than these, but may not have more lenient policies than these.
  • The Bishop’s Office will support stricter policies in specific cases where the local community may need to implement them.

General Worship Guidelines

  • Sunday school, youth groups, and camps may meet as long as social distancing and mask wearing are observed.
  • The Greeting of the Peace may be extended from where you are standing in your pew. There is to be no greeting that involves handshaking or embracing except for those who are of the same household.
  • Clergy and laity, when preaching or reading at the lectern or pulpit, may remove their mask while at the pulpit or lectern provided there are no persons within 12 feet of them.
  • No passing of collection plates.
  • Although the CDC recommends that singing can be reintroduced by choruses or choirs only and not by congregations, the Regathering Team strongly urges that there continue to be restraint on singing of any kind during indoor worship at this time. Singing by choirs inside with masks- starting in July will be allowed, provided that numbers continue to decrease to less than 5% in the county where the church is located.

Eucharistic Rubrics and Guidance

  • The Celebrant and other vested ministers must continue to wear masks. They may be removed only when reading or preaching if there is sufficient distance. Masks must continue to be worn during the Liturgy, including during the Prayer of Consecration.
  • Holy Communion will continue to be administered in one kind (Bread only).
  • The Chalice is reserved to the Celebrant alone. The Chalice is not to be offered to any member of the congregation, LEMs, or other clergy, in any form.
  • Individual so-called “communion cups” are not authorized for use in this diocese.
  • The Elements will continue to be handled only by the Celebrant before, during, and after the Eucharistic action.
  • The number of persons in the altar area is dependent on individuals being at least 6 feet apart.However, only the Celebrant is to stand at the altar.
  • Small tongs or forceps may be used by the Celebrant in place of, or in addition to, disposable gloves for the distribution of communion.
  • The Celebrant should be the only person who administers communion to the congregation.
  • The consecrated Hosts may be laid out on a tray, with communicants coming forward to take one keeping an appropriate distance. Alternatively, the Celebrant may take Holy Communion from the sanctuary to communicants in their seats so as to facilitate better social distancing, which can be difficult to maintain when people are in queue to approach the altar rail to receive communion.

Outdoor Services and Activities

  • Outside worship services do not require mask wearing by the congregation, only by the Celebrant during consecration and distribution of communion.
  • Outdoor settings for worship and activities are preferred, whenever possible.
  • Social distancing and hand sanitizing are to be observed by all persons when outside as well.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals are to be mindful and respectful of unvaccinated persons and those who are still practicing social distancing.

Pastoral Visits

  • Clergy may resume normal visitations for pastoral care and needs.
  • If clergy choose not to wear gloves, the hands of the clergy person must be sanitized before and after
  • distribution.
  • During pastoral visits, there is to be no interaction of a tactile nature. However, in the event, it should happen, hand sanitizing should be exercised as soon as it's practical, after touching.
  • Private communion is now permitted and may be delivered by Lay Eucharistic Visitors (LEVs) who must wear masks. The LEV are to request masks be worn by the recipients of communion (if medically possible).

Food and Beverage

  • Coffee Hour, held indoors, may be resumed if mask wearing, hand sanitizing, and social distancing are practiced.
  • Masks are removed only when eating and/or drinking, but should be worn while in conversation with others.
  • The safest way for food to be served at Coffee Hour or other activities is by individually packaged items.
  • Food service is also permitted if food items are placed on small individual plates that may be picked up
  • from a serving table.
  • Persons performing the task of placing food items on the plates must be masked and wearing gloves.
  • There are to be no buffet lines or servers providing food from trays, or any cookware.
  • Disposable plates and flatware are to be used only once at an activity where food is a part of the occasion.
  • Beverages in punch bowls or open containers are not to be used.
  • Delivery of beverages should be by vaccinated persons to minimize exposure risks.
  • Having a single person serve beverages are best for all groups, large or small.
  • It is preferred that persons eat and drink outside, whenever possible.

Guidelines for Churches with a Possibility of Positive Contact or with Positive Cases

  • If you were in direct contact with an individual who tested positive or in contact with someone who was in contact with a person who tested positive, you must self-quarantine until four days after exposure. After four days you should have a COVID- 19 test.
  • You must remain in self-quarantine until you have a negative COVID-19 test and medical professionals confirm that you are no longer at risk of being a carrier or spreader.
  • If a COVID-19 positive person comes into the church or school building, office, or parish hall and remains for 15 minutes or more, turn off ventilation, then wait 24 hours before thorough cleaning with PPE. After cleaning do not enter or use the contaminated space for 72 hours.
  • Notify persons who attended the service or activity that they were possibly exposed to someone with COVID-19, and recommend that they get a COVID-19 test. 
  • Change all air filters regularly.

Food Pantries and Thrift Shops

  • The previous guidelines for food pantries and thrift shops remain in force.

Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

  • The previous guidelines for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting remain in force.
  • Churches are to continue providing disposable masks and hand sanitizer for members and visitors alike who come to the church campus for services or business.
  • Churches should be cleaned preferably or at least sanitized between services.
  • It is still a good idea regularly to disinfect or sanitize frequently touched objects: doorknobs, light switches, handles, pew ends, tables, countertops, desks, phones, computers, musical instruments, and restroom facilities, including toilets, flushing handles, faucets and sinks.
  • Please ensure that you are using COVID-19-approved cleaning/disinfecting supplies.
  • You may view new information on Cleaning and Disinfecting on the CDC website by going to:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html

Although some may be keen to resume normal (i.e. pre-pandemic) activity as soon as possible, we are to be mindful and respectful, loving and caring, toward those who are still not yet vaccinated, or may be fully vaccinated but prefer to continue practicing social distancing. The COVID-19 virus is still a health risk to those who are fully vaccinated, but an even more serious health risk to the unvaccinated, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions, respiratory issues, and compromised immune systems. It is therefore important that we continue to follow the advice of the CDC and our medical professionals.

These guidelines represent the minimum requirements for our response in safeguarding our churches against COVID-19. Stricter protocols to those outlined in this document may be used; however, lesser protocols to these guidelines may not to be used without approval from the Diocesan Regathering Team. You may contact either Canon Licia Affer at: 305.849.9385, Email: licia@diosef.org or Canon Debra Maconaughey at: 305.240.1421, Email: downtime66@hotmail.com on any questions relating to these guidelines or matters pertaining to the transitioning of churches during this process. Please note that immediate responses may not be given until the Team meets.

The Diocesan Regathering Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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