The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has recommended that all gatherings across the state of over 250 people be postponed or canceled and is requiring the following conditions for meetings with below 250.
Nevertheless, as the situation of the pandemic varies by county, some counties in California have ordered the cancelation all gatherings over 100 people and are also banning all gatherings of 35-100 people unless the following conditions can be met (please check your county public health department webpage).
- If your local church decides to meet, it is your responsibility to:
- Prevent anyone who is sick with fever or respiratory symptoms from attending.
- Ensure that those who are at higher risk for serious illness do not attend.
- Provide people enough physical space so that they can stay 6 feetapart from others.
- Ensure that there are adequate supplies for hand washing including soap, paper towels, and waste receptacles; and urge attendees to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol can be used.
- Direct attendees to:
- Avoid close contact with other people.
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue - if available - or into their elbow.
- Clean surfaces with disinfecting wipes or other standard cleaners before, during, and after the event.
If there are small groups that choose to meet at your local church, they should change their routines to prevent spread of the virus, including:
- Modifying church customs and liturgy (i.e. individual cups for communion, no touching during passing of the peace, cover the baptismal font, keep the offering plate on the altar instead of passing it around)
- Sanitizing all frequently touched surfaces (door handles, light switches, hymnal covers)
- Keeping a distance of at least 6-feet between others at all times
- Ending potlucks, fellowship hour snacks, and finger food
- Encouraging anyone who displays signs of being sick to go home and recover.
In addition, if they haven't already, all pastors should:
- Encourage staff to work from home as much as possible.
- End nursing home and hospital visits except in the most critical circumstances.
- If you absolutely must be in a nursing home or hospital, keep your hands clean and stay 6 feet away from patients and staff.
Share the above information in emails, social media, and other announcements to help educate all parishioners. Regular updates and multiple reminders are helpful for reinforcement.