Further Guidance and Suggestions on Face Coverings Order
This information is from Kurt Weaver, Director of the Church Ambassador Network Pennsylvania Family Institute
As promised, we wanted to give you more information in regards to the latest Universal Face Covering Order:
Last Wednesday, July 1st, the Governor and Secretary of Health announced an expansion of the current Emergency In-person Operations Order (from April 15 and May 27) to change face mask wearing from being strongly encouraged to being mandatory. You can read the Universal Face Covering Order by clicking here.
This past weekend the Pennsylvania DOH released a number of FAQs addressing questions in regards to the Face Covering Order. You can read the entire FAQs document by clicking here. We have read through the FAQs and are using the answers as a guide to answer common questions we have received from pastors based on that information:
- “Do I have to wear a mask at a house of worship such as a church, synagogue or mosque? Yes, individuals must wear a face covering in any public place as well as outdoors when they are in a place where people are congregating and they cannot remain 6 feet apart from persons who are not a part of their household. Individuals should consider carrying a face covering in case they unexpectantly [sic] come in close contact with others.”
Are Masks Required in both Indoor and Outdoor Services? “Secretary’s Order requires individuals to wear a face covering, in both indoor public places and in the outdoors when they are not able to consistently maintain social distancing from individuals who are not members of their household, such as on a busy sidewalk, waiting in line to enter a place, or near others at any place people are congregating. Whether inside in a public place or outside, and when wearing a face covering or not, everyone should socially distance at least 6 feet apart from others who are not part of your household.” (Answer to FAQ – Do I have to wear a mask both inside and outside?)
- Are Masks Required for Public Speaking or Preaching? “Individuals speaking for a broadcast or to an audience may remove their face coverings while speaking, so long as they are social distancing during the speech or broadcast. Those persons in attendance, including employees of the venue, and any person speaking must social distance during, before and after the speech or broadcast.” (Answer to FAQ – I see the people remove their masks while making public speeches. Isn’t that a violation of the Order?)
- Are Church Leaders Required to Enforce The Order? “The Department wants to emphasize that it does not expect businesses to put employees in harm’s way. Again, in making a determination about whether or not to comply with the Order, an individual should consider not only his or her right to make that decision, but his or her responsibility to family, friends, and other persons with whom they may contact, and to whom they may spread disease.” (Answer to FAQ – Do businesses need to deny entry to those not wearing a face covering such as a mask?)
As a reminder, we are supplying information for you to make decisions that are best for our congregation, setting, location, and community. Our intent is to inform you of the information coming from our Governor and Department of Health to help you in your decision making process.
We understand that these are challenging times and navigating these types of decisions are not easy. You are all in our prayers. May God continue to grant you the wisdom you need as you do the great work of gospel ministry.
Please see letter below on when our church will reopen and also document below the letter with mandates and processes that have been put in place. Thank you!
Bethlehem Seventh-day Adventist Church
Policies & Procedure on Dealing with COVID-19
Mandate May 2020
The following mandates in dealing with COVID-19 are in accordance and have been provided by the following agencies: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania State Governors office and Pennsylvania Conference Risk Management Department of the Seventh-day Adventist.
Communication & Resources:
Our Church Families are looking forward to reopening our doors and beginning services at church again. Much of the world has been brought to a near standstill to combat COVID-19 through social
distancing. Some regions are starting to relax the stay-at-home orders. The anticipation of worshiping together means plans are necessary that adapt to and how our Bethlehem church services are conducted. The following steps should and need to be taken as needed to reopen our church doors. These are necessary to maintain the health, safety and well-being of all members and or visitors who attend our church. Below you may read CDC, Adventist Risk Mgmt. and The Pennsylvania Conferences Policies and procedures we have adopted and implemented in order to be in compliance with all agencies. You will also see highlighted in blue and underlined links you can click on for more information from the above-mentioned agencies.
- Establish and maintain communication with local and State authorities to determine current mitigation levels in your community. We are currently in the Yellow Phase level as of June 5, 2020.
- Provide protections for church members and visitors at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Offer options for members and visitors at higher risk for severe illness (including older adults and people of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions) that limit their exposure risk. Offer options for church members and visitors at higher risk of severe illness that limit their exposure risk (e.g., remote participation in services).
- Consistent with applicable federal and State laws and regulations, put in place policies that protect the privacy and confidentiality of people at higher risk for severe illness regarding underlying medical conditions.
- Encourage any organizations that share or use the facilities to also follow these considerations as applicable.
- If your community provides social services in the facility as part of its mission, consult CDC’s information for schools and businesses and workplaces, as relevant, for helpful information.
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
Gatherings and events, such as meetings, concerts, conferences, fairs, festivals, sporting events, movie showings or theater performances are subject to specific conditions within each phase of reopening. These conditions require that facilities limit the total number of individuals gathering for each discrete gathering or event within the facility, notwithstanding the maximum occupancy of the facility.
- In the Red Phase of reopening, gatherings for a planned or spontaneous event are limited to a maximum of 10 individuals.
- In the Yellow Phase of reopening, gatherings for a planned or spontaneous event are limited to a maximum of 25 individuals.
- In the Green Phase of reopening, gatherings for a planned or spontaneous event are limited to a maximum of 250 individuals.
Local political units were not explicitly required to suspend in-person operations under the business closure orders issued by the Governor and the Secretary on March 19, 2020. However, they were advised to curtail in- person operations to the extent practicable and to follow COVID-19 mitigation guidance provided by the Department and the CDC. Similarly, local political units are not required to follow the Secretary’s building and business safety orders; however, they are advised to implement the protocols that it outlines to the extent practicable.
Although the Commonwealth is not a business that is directly covered by this guidance, Governor Wolf has chosen to implement the practices outlined here where possible as an example for other employers and employees in the Commonwealth.
Local political units should use best judgment in exercising their authorities and issuing implementation directives and guidance. All such decisions should appropriately balance public health and safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical services and functions. Government employees and contractors should continue to operate under the direction of their supervisors.
Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of congregate worship are specifically excluded from the limitations established by this Guidance. These institutions are strongly encouraged to institute social distancing and other mitigation measures like masking at their gatherings.
Bethlehem SDA Church Guidelines and Safety & Security Measures During Reopening
Disinfecting the Building
Once social distancing restrictions have been lifted, pastors must begin implementing steps to sanitize the entire building. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined requirements for proper cleaning. Churches need to clean and disinfect pews, rostrum furniture, electronic equipment, microphones, and AV aids, in addition to restrooms and wash areas. In Sabbath School rooms, disinfect all chairs, tables, and teaching aids. If your church has athletic equipment, including playground structures, these should be disinfected as well. The CDC also recommends replacing the filters on all air conditioning units to ensure the flow of clean air into the building.
- Our Church has been closed for 3 months we will conduct a normal cleaning and upkeep of all areas before reopening.
- Certain areas of the church will remain closed off until we no longer are required by any levels to operate according to state regulations of Red Yellow or Green Phases.
- The fellowship Hall will remain closed off along with all classrooms unless indicated by the Pastor, Elders or Head Deacon and Deaconess.
- All area which are being used weekly will undergo complete disinfection cleaning after every service is conducted.
- All pews and points of contact such as doors and doorknobs will be completely wiped down with disinfectant. The following are CDC guidelines:
- Normal routine cleaning with soap and water will decrease how much of the virus is on surfaces and objects, which reduces the risk of exposure.
- Disinfection using EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 can also help reduce the risk. Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people is important.
- EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, alternative disinfectants can be used (for example, 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water, or 70% alcohol solutions). Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause fumes that may be very dangerous to breathe in. Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours. Keep all disinfectants out of the reach of children. Read EPA’s infographic on how to use these disinfectant products safely and effectively.
Intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects in between use.
- Develop a schedule of increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
- Avoid use of items that are not easily cleaned, sanitized, or disinfected.
- safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep them away from children.
- Cleaning products should not be used near children, and staff should ensure that there is adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent children or themselves from inhaling toxic fumes.
- Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, etc. Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety risk to children using the facility.
Promote Social Distancing
- Take steps to limit the size of gatherings in accordance with the guidance and directives of state and local authorities and subject to the protections of the First Amendment and any other applicable federal law.
- social distancing at services and other gatherings, ensuring that clergy, staff, choir, volunteers and attendees at the services follow social distancing, as circumstances and faith traditions allow, to lessen their risk.
- Consider holding services and gatherings in a large, well-ventilated area or outdoors, as circumstances and faith traditions allow.
- Consider appropriate mitigation measures, including taking steps to limit the size of gatherings maintaining social distancing, at other gatherings such as funerals, weddings, religious education classes, youth events, support groups and any other programming, where consistent with the faith tradition.
- Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or walkways and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g. guides for creating “one-way routes” in hallways).
- Encourage use of Face coverings among Volunteers, members and visitors. Face coverings are most essential when social distancing is difficult. Note: Face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, and anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance. Face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms.
- Face coverings are required while under CDC and local government Phase levels are implemented for the protection of others.
- The Bethlehem SDA Church will also require the use of face coverings while conducting church service for the safety of others.
- All who are using face masks should remove partially in order to breath fresh air. always maintain adequate social distance when removing Face Mask temporarily.
- All who wish to continue use of face masks after the phases are over may do so at their convenience.
The following are encouraged to stay at home:
- Anyone who is currently sick or felling some type of illness coming on.
- The Elderly should remain home if there is a concern of contamination.
- Anyone with underlying medical conditions.
- Family members who live with elderly people or those who are at risk
- People who have upper respiratory of flu like symptoms
- People who live with someone with upper respiratory or flu like symptoms
- People with COVID-19 or live with someone with COVID-19
- People who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19
Requested “Containment Practices” for those attending Service:
- Please follow all the instructions of the Deacons and Deaconesses.
- All volunteers, members and visitors will be screened for a temperature check upon arrival.
- Anyone who’s temperature is 100.4 will be asked to not attend church at that time.
- We will be using a central microphone and minimize use of electronic equipment to one person and or multiple equipment to be use by one individual per event and followed by disinfecting all equipment after every use.
- We will implement a sitting arrangement of every other pew until further notice.
- Pews that are to be used will be marked and those not will be closed off.
- Family members please, where possible sit together.
- We will provide every possible seating available to accommodate members and visitors during service.
- In case of overflow we will have an overflow room with virtual live feed going on in our Sabbath School classroom.
- The overflow location will be in keeping with social distancing accommodations.
- When coughing, please we ask that you cough in your sleeves & teach children to do likewise.
- We want to encourage that all Tithe & Offering be given online if possible.
- Anyone who will rather give the Tithe & Offering at church service please follow the following procedures:
- Place all Tithe & Offering in envelope.
- Place all Tithe & Offering envelopes in a basket on the way out of the Sanctuary.
- A Deacon and Deaconess will be located near the basket were Tithe & Offering can be given in a safe manner.
- We will Ensure that worshipers enter through one door and exit through another
if possible, to minimize people coming in close contact in doorways.
- We will continue with one worship service at 11:00AM concluding no later than 12:30PM
- To regulate the flow of people out of the sanctuary, we will assign the deacons to dismiss worshipers by rows.
- Dismissal of members and or visitor will begin from the back of the church sanctuary. Also, dismissal will be done by closest door if possible.
- It is also recommended that the Pastor not stand at the door to greet everyone as they exit out of the sanctuary.
- Pastor will refrain from customary greeting of members or visitors before and after service.
- We ask the all members and visitors will refrain from hugs or handshakes.
- We are asking please that we do not gather in the fellowship hall for socializing.
Green Phase Updated Order
The governor elaborated on green phase guidelines announced on May 22 by issuing an updated order for counties in the green phase of reopening. The orders from Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine include these provisions:
- The order includes provisions for businesses that were permitted to conduct in-person operations in the yellow phase, those permitted to operate with some restrictions on in-person operations and those that were not permitted any in-person operations under the yellow phase.
- The order also includes guidance on occupancy limits and health and safety orders that business must adhere to under the green phase.
- Specifics are included on those areas that have raised questions from business owners and residents, including:
- Any gathering for a planned or spontaneous event of greater than 250 individuals is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, a concert, festival, fair, conference, sporting event, movie showing, or theater performance.
- Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of congregate worship are specifically excluded from the limitations established by the order. These institutions are strongly encouraged to enforce social distancing and other mitigation measures such as masking at their gatherings.
There are 5 more counties in Pennsylvania entering the green reopening phase Friday June 12, making 46 total in green and 21 now in yellow. Counties can move to green 14 days after moving to the yellow phase, if there are no significant virus outbreaks and the overall risk stays reduced, the state said full details and guidance on each phase of the plan can be found on Wolf's website.
Even if we Re-open the church while on Green Phase we will implement all above requirements for two full weekends totaling at least 14 days or as deemed necessary. If we have a breakout of more than one case of COVID-19 the Bethlehem church will return to a Phase Red for at least 14 days to re-evaluate matters.
In the event that any church member or visitor tests positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of attending services, they should be instructed to contact Pastor Pete Maldonado within 24 hours of testing positive. Pastor Pete Maldonado will then contact the local department of health to receive current guidelines for necessary follow-up, if any is required at that time.
Members or Visitors that have questions about whether this guidance applies to them may contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).