• Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

New COVID-19 Safety Guidelines (Spring 2022)



New Safety Guidelines (March 31, 2022)


Preamble


On May 5, 2021, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church authorized COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for resuming in-person worship on Sundays and holidays. In-person worship resumed on June 6 and on June 17, the Vestry amended those guidelines. After almost ten months of worshipping under these guidelines, and navigating multiple COVID-19 variants and spikes in infections, the Vestry is prepared to make a new amendment to our guidance. These guidelines respond to the latest changes to public health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued on February 25, 2022.


Now, the CDC issues weekly assessments of the “COVID-19 Community Level” in every county in the USA (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html). The CDC says that it is not necessary for the general public to wear masks in public indoors spaces in counties with Low (green) and Medium (yellow) levels. At High (orange) levels, the general public should wear masks in public indoors spaces. Immunocompromised people are encouraged to wear masks in public indoors spaces at all times.


The St. Matthew’s Vestry recognizes that we have many immunocompromised members and others at high risk for serious illness if they contract COVID-19, so we do not intend to lift our mask requirement for public services of worship. However, when Chatham County is designated as a Low or Medium zone, we will authorize indoor events that include refreshments, such as Sunday Coffee Hour and other social events. (As of March 24, Chatham has a Low COVID-19 community level.) We will ask people to wear masks whenever they are not eating or drinking, even in Low or Medium times. Otherwise, there will be little change to the worship guidelines we have adapted to in the last year.


The Resolution


The following resolution was approved by the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church of Savannah, Inc., on March 31, 2022.


Whereas, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its public health guidance on February 25, 2022, and issues weekly guidance for each county in the USA based on “hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area” (CDC, “COVID-19 by County”), now, therefore, it is


Resolved, That the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church of Savannah, Inc., will authorize in-person worship gatherings, with the following safety guidelines in place at all times:

1. Maximum attendance of 100 people (including ministers and musicians);

2. All attenders are required to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth at all times (except while reading, officiating, or preaching, if fully vaccinated and/or standing at a distance of at least fifteen (15) feet from the congregation, e.g., at the lectern);

3. Masks will be provided to those who come without them;

4. Individuals or families/pods will be spaced at least 6 feet apart;

5. Temperature will be taken upon entry;

6. Hand sanitizer available at all entrances;

7. When Eucharist is offered, it is received in one kind (bread only) from the pews;

8. Restroom access limited to one at a time, only when absolutely necessary;

9. Obligation for all worshippers to contact the church if they test positive for COVID-19 within 5 days of attending for contact tracing (names of the infected will not be shared);

10. Contact tracing via recorded attendance

11. Volunteer ushers will enforce these safety guidelines throughout the service;

12. Door knobs and handles, stair rails, pews, handrails, and light switches will be disinfected before all services; and

13. Worship services will still be available to view online;

14. Obligation for worshippers to stay home if they test positive for COVID-19, even if they are asymptomatic (see the CDC’s quarantine guidance here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fif-you-are-sick%2Fquarantine.html); and be it further


Resolved, That when the CDC considers Chatham County, GA, to have a Low or Medium COVID-19 Community Level (per https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html), the following additional guidelines are in place:

1. Light refreshments may be served at public events;

2. People must still wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking; and be it further


Resolved, That when the CDC considers Chatham County, GA, to have a High COVID-19 Community Level (per https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html), the following additional guidelines are in place:

1. Hugging and handshakes are discouraged, even at the Peace;

2. No refreshments may be served at public events, including after worship;

3. Refreshments may be served in small groups of less than 15 fully vaccinated people; and

4. No more than 1.5 hours of total time in the church for public events; and be it further


Resolved, That the Vestry reserves the right to make exceptions to the maximum attendance and social distancing guidelines for special events.


We, the undersigned, acknowledge that the above resolution was duly adopted by the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church of Savannah, Inc., via electronic vote on March 31, 2022.

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