A recent surge of COVID-19 in one of our churches in Penobscot County Maine (Katahdin District) is one example of the increase in positive cases we are seeing all over New England. It also highlights the need for even greater vigilance to halt the spread of the virus and continue to reduce everyone's risk.
During this spike in COVID-19 cases, the Conference Re-Entry Team reminds everyone across the Conference that it is best NOT to gather in person. If you DO, then these protocols MUST be in place – particularly the prohibition against singing.
The Team has been in contact with the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention (Maine CDC) to talk about the outbreak there.
They affirmed that Conference guidelines
provide sound protocols for responding to COVID-19, but when areas are facing an increased number of cases, the Maine CDC offers some additional guidance:
- The recommendations of 6 feet of separation and no more than 15 minutes of close contact are guidelines, not a guarantee that there will be no spread of the virus.
If you are meeting for worship in a closed room (no open windows or doors), the virus can spread. At our church in Penobscot County, all the positive cases were people who were sitting 6 feet apart (in family groups) on the same side of the sanctuary.
- It is crucial to screen people at the door.
Screening should include reviewing the 12 specific symptoms
, not simply asking “Have you had any symptoms?” Maine CDC investigators are finding someone will say "no" to the general question, but when asked specifically about a symptom — such as have you felt tired, had a sore throat, or a headache, they will realize and acknowledge that they do have symptoms.
- It is VERY important to have a registration procedure in order to do proper contact tracing.
This ensures that everyone who has been in close contact with a person/s who have tested positive can be told in a timely way to isolate/quarantine, so the virus does not spread further.
You can find the guidelines and more at the link above. This information includes a section on what to do if someone in the congregation tests positive for COVID-19, including:
Reversing the decision to meet in person
Positive COVID-19 test protocol
Sample letter in case of possible exposure to COVID-19