As Christmas approaches, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued general considerations for religious communities to keep their staff and congregations safe from COVID-19.
The CDC reminded faith communities of the general health protocols established early this year, including wearing of face masks, the proper washing of hands for 20 seconds, providing hygiene items and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content, and promoting coughing and sneezing etiquette.
The CDC also suggests enhancing cleaning, disinfection and ventilation inside church buildings. Health authorities advocate outdoor church services to ensure proper air circulation and lessen the risk of infection.
If outdoor services are unfeasible, churches are advised to check on their ventilation systems to ensure they operate properly and can provide good air circulation within the building. For multiple services, the CDC advises scheduling services far enough apart to give way to cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as pews, chairs, and pens.
Since it’s the holidays, gatherings are most likely to happen, not only among church members, but especially among families and friends. The CDC promotes social distancing and recommends a limit to the size of crowd during gatherings “such as funerals, weddings, religious education classes, youth events, support groups and any other programming, where consistent with the faith tradition.”
Every state in the country has issued guidelines on social gatherings. Early on, the CDC suggests gatherings of more than 10 people be cancelled, and if a big gathering should take place, individuals should maintain 6 feet distance at all times.
In its guidance, the CDC also gave suggestions in the event a staff or church member showed symptoms of COVID-19. Churches are advised to provide signs and informative messages, whether print or online, on how to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
The CDC clarified that the guidance was given as a suggestion only and faith communities can “consider and accept, reject, or modify, consistent with their own faith traditions, in the course of preparing to reconvene for in-person gatherings while still working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Meantime, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued official advice to religious communities to help curb the spread of COVID-19, reports Premier Christian News.
The WHO advised that, “in countries experiencing widespread community transmission of the virus, postponing or reducing such gatherings should be seriously considered.”
Similar to the CDC’s recommendations, the WHO promotes outdoor church activities and services. “Regardless of location, religious services should take place differently this year,” the official guidance stated. “They should be held outdoors whenever possible or be limited in size and duration, with physical distancing, ventilation, hand hygiene and mask use, as appropriate.”