BREAKING NEWS (5/13/2021)
On Thursday afternoon, Governor Jay Inslee announced that Washington plans a statewide “reopening” on June 30, and that Washington State would also “fully adopt masking guidance issued by the CDC” earlier on May 13. This CDC announcement advises that fully vaccinated people (that is, two weeks past the final required vaccination) no longer need to wear face masks in most outdoor or indoor settings.
This will not mean an immediate change in practices at UUC, however. Until the State releases updated guidelines for businesses and religious organizations, we’ll continue to require facemasks and distancing at the church for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, when visiting, meeting, or gathering in small groups at UUC. At this time, the church remains closed except for small group meetings that are reserved in advance.
We want to assure everyone that we will be reviewing and updating our use policies as soon as we have more information from the State on how these new recommendations should be implemented to protect our congregation and the public health. Stay tuned!
Initial Steps Toward Reopening Our Church Building
This spring, as more individuals are vaccinated, we understand the excitement and urgency some people are feeling around returning to worship and other familiar activities in the presence of their fellow members and friends. In the best interest of the health of our community as a whole, we need to look ahead to gradual steps that allow us to safely return to patterns of church life that are meaningful and important to us.
Our first tentative step in March and April has been to schedule small-group gatherings outside on the grounds of the building, where risks for communal transmission of the virus are much lower than inside the building. Outdoor gatherings for up to 20 people can be scheduled for available times with the church office.
What follows are seven initial steps to restart some of our in-person programming inside the church building. Please note that this isn’t a comprehensive reopening plan for all members of the church. Rather, this plan outlines the ways in which the first groups of vaccinated adults may begin gathering in building. This reopening process will continue to be updated and revised when new information becomes available.
There are two notable areas of programming not yet covered in this plan:
- Religious Education At this time, steps to support in building programs for children and youth have not been established. We love and care for our families and would like to help them participate in programs safely. We will continue to provide programs for families, children and teens online. It is not yet safe to return to in building religious education programs for children and youth, because it’s not safe for all participants. However, we are encouraged by the possibilities that warm weather and outdoor, socially distanced programs offer us. See “Centering Safety for our Children, Youth, and Adults,” in the March 26 edition of The Gateway, written by Melody Moberg, UUC Director of Religious Education.
- Music UUC Music Director Karen Thomas has been closely following the research and announcements of national and local health authorities related to the performance of live music and its potential as a “super spreader” of coronavirus. She is also informed by her colleagues in large UU churches and through her connections as a Board Member of both Chorus America (a choral research and advocacy organization) and the NW region of the American Choral Directors Association, and as a founding Board member of the Greater Seattle Choral Consortium. See Karen’s article, “Why Singing Hymns In-person Won’t Happen Soon,” in the April 15 edition of The Gateway.
Seven Steps Toward Reopening the Church
Each of the steps outlined in the table below depends on the success of the steps that come before it, and they depend on a number of variables within and outside the church’s control. A critical dependency is the equipment that supports our dedicated outside air systems (DOAS). These systems have some control system errors that must be fixed to get them working consistently. As we have learned during the pandemic, buildings are only as safe as their indoor air, so this equipment must be running in perfect shape before any group can use our buildings safely. That’s why this issue is a dependency for starting to have small group gatherings (Step 2). Other dependencies, such as King County pandemic phases and vaccination rates, included in later steps, are not in the church’s control but are monitored by staff daily.
|1||Recruit and train vaccinated volunteers to support unvaccinated staff. These volunteers will be trained on welcoming small-group gatherings in the building, and supporting the leaders of those groups in the church’s pandemic operation and safety policies.||April||King County in Phase 3|
|2||Schedule and hold small-group gatherings for up to 20 people in Knatvold and Nathan Johnson Hall at times when staff and vaccinated volunteers are available (though not Sunday mornings).||May||Prior step and dependencies plus building ventilation system fully operational|
|3||Establish a registration process for shared in-person viewing of livestreamed Sunday worship in Nathan Johnson Hall. Participants will be required to register and select from a list of available summer Sundays.||May||Prior steps and dependencies|
|4||Begin shared in-person viewing of livestreamed Sunday worship in Nathan Johnson Hall (up to 20 participants per Sunday). These gatherings will run through the summer months.||June||Prior steps and dependencies|
|5||Extend the registration process to support limited in-person worship in the chapel. Participants will be required to register and select from a list of available Sundays.||August||Prior steps and dependencies|
|6||Begin limited in-person worship in the chapel on Sundays (up to 50 participants per Sunday). Services will continue to be livestreamed for viewing at home.||September||Prior steps and dependencies plus King County in Phase 4 and all involved staff vaccinated|
|7||Begin full in-person worship in the chapel on Sundays. Services will continue to be livestreamed for viewing at home.||TBD||Prior steps and dependencies plus rates of cases and hospitalizations in King County indicate that general risk to the population has been reduced to a level acceptable to the King County Department of Public Health|
In addition to the dependencies listed in the table above, taking these steps toward in-person programming in the church building requires all members and friends involved to support the following:
- Masking and social distancing must be observed everywhere in the church building by all members and staff, regardless of vaccination status. Control of communal transmission among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals requires these precautions.
- All gatherings must record attendance with the names and phone numbers of all those present. Staff, volunteers, or group leaders responsible for events will be required to submit attendance sheets at the end of their events. Records of who is in the building are essential to support contact tracing in the event of an exposure incident.
- Events in the building should offer options for virtual participation so that members unable or unwilling to attend in person are not excluded. Group leaders and those supporting group leaders will work together to enable virtual participation.
- Event participants and supporting employees should be vaccinated. The church asks that those who have not been vaccinated avoid in-person worship and gatherings when options for virtual participation are available.
Staff and volunteer hosts will be reminding leaders and participants of these and other expectations at the start of each gathering.
We all must remember that there is still risk involved in using indoor spaces with individuals and families outside our immediate households, even with vaccinated individuals and stellar ventilation. We ask that as with all activities during the pandemic, individuals and families use their best judgement and respect their personal risk tolerance in making decisions to join gatherings at the church, large or small. Every effort must be made by everyone involved to respect these differences and ensure alternatives are available so that none of us need encounter unintended exclusion.
This plan will be updated reqularly, as information is received and contingencies are monitored. If you have any questions related to this working plan for the building’s gradual reopening, the dependencies of this plan, or other matters related to church operations during 2021, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Pandemic Recovery Posts
- Governor’s Announcement on Reopening and Masks May 13, 2021
- UUC Building Hosts Needed May 3, 2021
- Meeting Outside at UUC April 30, 2021
- Pandemic Recovery Plan Update April 26, 2021
- Why Singing Hymns In-Person Won’t Happen Soon April 15, 2021
- UUC’s Pandemic Recovery Plan Now Available April 15, 2021
- Construction Confidential: Our Dizzy DOAS April 4, 2021
- Thoughts on Returning to Our Building April 2, 2021
- Centering Safety for Our Children, Youth and Adults March 24, 2021