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IMPORTANT Task Force for Operations Update COVID-19 Guidelines

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The Task Force for Operations Update
January 2022
With the recent surge of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus, the Task Force on Operations of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania issues these recommendations for our parishes as they gather for worship and community life:
  • It is strongly encouraged that all parishes follow the recommended guidelines for virus mitigation as found here: https://diocesecpa.org/parish-news/coronavirus-facts-precautions-and-prayers/. The persistence of the virus and the longevity of the pandemic calls for continued diligence in the use of mitigation techniques to prevent the spread of disease. Thank you for your faithfulness and for keeping each other safe in this time.
  • During the winter months when the Omicron surge is expected to be at its height, consider moving parish meetings and activities that can be online to a digital format.
  • Clergy who have access to home tests should test themselves on the day before gathering for worship. Tests are being made available by the diocesan offices as we are able to acquire them and can be reserved for pick up by emailing Canon Chad Linder at clinder@diocesecpa.org. We understand that tests are not foolproof, but they can be an indicator of the presence of the virus. In the instance that a positive test result is obtained, it is recommended that the clergy person either 1) move to online worship for that week 2) contract a supply priest if available 3) make arrangements for Morning Prayer to be read in her/his absence.
  • Clergy who have been exposed (been within 6 ft. of a person with Covid for 15 minutes, indoors) should follow the recommendations above for 4 days following exposure.
  • Continue to pray for those who are affected by the virus: those who are sick, those in isolation, our unvaccinated children, those with vulnerabilities, those who mourn, health care professionals, teachers and other essential workers.
Keep us, Good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort, knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
(from the St. Andrew’s, State College “Prayers for a Time of Pandemic” found here: https://diocesecentralpa.s3.amazonaws.com/2020+Website/Easter+Holy+Week/Prayers+for+a+Time+of+Pandemic+(1).pdf

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Carolyn Patterson at cpatterson@diocesecpa.org or Canon Chad Linder at clinder@diocesecpa.org.

Important Links

  • The Bishop, diocesan staff, and The Task Force on Operations have been tracking COVID-19 INCIDENT RATE PER 100,000 PER 7 DAYS / New Cases / PCR % Positivity, by county. To view the most recent Diocesan COVID TRACKING SHEET, please CLICK HERE.

  • If an individual exhibits symptoms, or is not vaccinated and has had known contact with someone COVID-19 positive, please follow the CDC guidelines found at this LINK.
  • For more detailed CDC guidance, please CLICK HERE.
  • To access the CDC’s COVID-DATA-TRACKER for county level transmission status, please CLICK HERE.

 

Revised Guidelines from the Task Force on Operations
The Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania

March 14, 2022

As the impact of the Omicron Variant fades across the diocese we must consider how to move forward understanding that the COVID virus will most probably be with us at some level for the foreseeable future and that the potential for future outbreaks remains with us. The CDC has revised their risk measurement and protective recommendations based on the ability of our medical systems to react quickly and effectively to future infections and on a continually improving understanding of disease transmission. The leaders of many civic jurisdictions have modified their guidance as they, too, observe the waning of the virus and strive to maintain safe spaces while supporting resilience and restoring practices that lead to vibrancy and strength in communities. Our resilience and strength as the Body of Christ comes from the power of a God whose compassion and love know no limits. That strength is supported by coming together as God’s people for worship, fellowship, work, and study. We are grateful for the way that our congregations have responded in the time of pandemic and how you have created safe space for gathering, caring for the most vulnerable among us. With the pandemic currently waning, it is appropriate that our guidelines shift, once again. We continue to recommend using the CDC guidelines as the least restrictive measures for gathering and we urge adherence to any local guidelines that may be stricter. We also recognize the importance of offering guidelines that can be adjusted to work in each particular context based on the size of the church building, the specific appointments of each space, (windows that can open, ventilation systems, etc.) and the demographics of the congregation. Thus, we encourage each clergy person to work with their Vestry to arrive at a plan that will work in your space. As your Task Force, we would be happy to review those plans as you desire. Please reach out to your assigned Task Force member or to Carolyn Patterson if you would like to consult with one of us about your plan. We believe that full vaccination is critical towards reducing risk and creating safer communities. We also recognize that those who cannot be vaccinated and those with underlying health concerns need our support as they choose to maintain more strict personal safety measures. Anyone who chooses to retain mask wearing and social distancing practices in this time of lessened restrictions is to be supported for their decision.

At this time, the recommended shifts in our common practice include:
· The wearing of masks for those who desire this personal level of protection. Others may go mask-free in worship and at other church events
· Restoring regular seating in parish sanctuaries and other spaces
· A return to receiving communion at the altar rail with an option for those who prefer communion in their pew or the prayer of Spiritual Communion
· A return of the Common Cup while maintaining other means of distributing wine for those who prefer it, i.e.: small cups. Note: intinction in any manner is strongly discouraged as this practice is unhygienic. If small cups are used to distribute wine, a single vessel of wine shall be placed on the altar to signify our unity in Christ. The small cups must be washed in a manner similar to how the chalice is washed, and if disposable cups are used, they are to be rinsed in the piscina before discarding
· Singing in church services is to be restored. The Rector and Vestry may decide if fewer hymns are preferred to lessen the presence of aerosols and droplets circulating in the space
· Restoring Coffee Hour and Food Ministries (i.e.: community meals) in the life of the parish
· The wearing of masks by church nursery attendants as a means of protecting our youngest
· The option to continue the practice of recording attendance for the purposes of contact tracing

The Task Force on Operations and the Diocesan Staff will continue its vigilance studying and posting the rate of virus incidence on our website. If we see a resurgence of the virus in numbers that are threatening, we will recommend restoring the mitigation techniques to keep our parishioners safe.

These guidelines are to encourage a return to the former practices of common life at a time when we feel it is prudent to do so while appreciating that safety and risk assessment is personal. Above all, we hope that our parishes will be places where those who practice a higher level of personal safety feel welcomed, and that we can come together in joy and peace to worship our Lord.

The Task Force on Operations
Ms. Elaine Austin
Ms. Barbara Cross
Canon Alexis Guszick
Canon Chad Linder
Mr. Bill Lord
The Rev. Jeff Packard
The Rt. Rev. Audrey Scanlan
Consulting Physician, Dr. Pamela Vnenchak

Previous Update

November 2021

As we approach the Holiday Season, the Diocesan Taskforce for Operations wants to remind parishes to remain vigilant protecting the health of one another. As of November 12, all counties within our Diocese remain at a High Level of Community Transmission of COVID-19 as defined by the CDC.

Here are the current recommendations of the Taskforce, based on the most recent CDC guidance.

Indoor masking for all persons should continue while in an area of high or substantial level of community transmission (currently all of PA as of November 12, 2021. See link #2 below to access current information).

  • Vaccination is strongly recommended.
  • Individuals should be respectful of each other’s personal space in all indoor settings.
  • Parishes should continue to maintain attendance logs to facilitate contact tracing, if necessary.
  • External groups and individuals should follow the same guidelines established for church members.
  • Communion should continue in one kind only (bread). If wine is desired, individual paper or plastic cups should be used and respectfully discarded. The use of the common cup or the practice of intinction is strongly discouraged.
  • If an individual exhibits symptoms, or is not vaccinated and has had known contact with someone COVID-19 positive, please follow the CDC guidelines found at this LINK.
  • Continue recommended cleanliness standards.
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