Church and Public Health

Being Church in the Time of Coronavirus

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Options Under Federal CARES Act

Congress has passed three acts recently in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The latter two, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), provide significant assistance that is available to churches, religious organizations and their employees.

The FFCRA requires employers to provide paid sick leave for employees and provides payroll tax credits to employers (including churches) to pay for the sick leave and for family and medical leave resulting from COVID-19.

The CARES Act provides a multitude of assistance to churches and their employees, including: Payroll Tax Relief, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, Paycheck Protection Program, and Charitable Contribution Incentives.

Resources:


Operating Under Stay-at-Home Order

Update: Because of the growing concern for the aerosol spread of COVID-19, we strongly recommend that you no longer gather groups to record or live stream worship. Read more.

Religious organizations are considered “Life-sustaining” in Pennsylvania. Gatherings are prohibited. It is permissible for religious leaders to travel to church to work or broadcast services. Such broadcasts should be done with the minimum possible number of people, with attention to thorough cleaning of microphones/seats/surfaces, and while maintaining social distancing.


Always seek out current, trusted information

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Cover your coughs/sneezes.
  • Wash hands with soap and water regularly and after touching doorknobs, faucets, etc.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Encourage pastors, staff and members to stay home when they are sick.
  • Make sure tissues, paper towels, soap, and 60% alcohol hand cleaner are availablein areas where people gather (not just in washrooms). For example, place bottles of hand sanitizer in each pew.
  • Routinely clean surfaces and items that are frequently touched, such as doorknobs, faucets, and telephones. Wipe these surfaces with a household disinfectant, following the directions on the product label.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you have symptoms.

As we engage in ministry with congregants and the community, it is helpful to remind your congregation and networks that rumor control and regular situational awareness are essential. Please get your information from trusted sources like the PA Department of Health, the CDC.

It is also important to remind people that concerns about coronavirus should focus on public health and safety and NOT be used as an excuse for anti-Asian-American racism or xenophobia. We urge you to speak out against this kind of hate.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

Contact your doctor or public health department if you experience these symptoms!

Officials recommend that you self-quarantine for 14 days if you have symptoms

  • The risk of infection for healthy populations remains low. Most people who are infected with COVID-19 will experience mild illness.
  • People who are over 60 years old, those who have compromised immune systems, people with underlying chronic health conditions, and women who are pregnant are most vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, to varying degrees.
  • The virus is spread through droplets, which means that it is passed through direct contact. For example, if someone coughs into their hand, then touches your hand, and you touch your mouth, you would be at risk of infection.
  • Refer frequently to updates from the CDC, state, and county health officials for the latest information.
  • Encourage members, staff and rostered ministers to stay home if they are ill.
  • Seek medical attention if you or a loved one experience COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath).
  • Have plenty of soap and water, 60% alcohol hand sanitizer, tissues, and masks available in areas where people gather.
  • Everyone should follow basic hygiene precautions, at church and at home. Wash your hands frequently and well, cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow, stop touching your face, and avoid touching surfaces touched by many people.
  • Churches should step up the cleaning of commonly touched surfaces with approved disinfectants before events.  
  • When possible, use remote technologies for meetings, prayer times, even worship, rather than meeting face to face.
  • Review the preparedness resources below with your council and leadership.
  • Isolate anyone who becomes ill at work or worship. They should be separated six-feet from others and given a mask to wear if possible untill they can safely go home.
  • If you become aware that someone in your congregation (and school population, if you have a school) has been exposed or becomes infected, consult your county health department.
  • Read CDC Guidance on what to do if you become sick.
  • Explore ways to share your services via Internet with people who are absent, perhaps by live streaming your worship/Bible study.
  • Platforms such as Zoom or Skype allow you to broadcast worship or to have a group participate in an online meeting or class. A conference calling service would also work.
  • Create a church YouTube channel and set up a computer with camera to stream to YouTube.
  • Consider starting an online church group at Facebook, Skype, or other social media platforms.
  • Video sermons and post them to your website and Facebook page.
  • Sign up for an electronic service to receive donations, such as tithe.ly, and teach people how to make gifts online when they are not at church.
  • Explore ways that you can gather virtually. Simple worship/devotions can keep your community connected should gathering in person be unadvisable. Examples include: Sharing worship, prayer, or bible study by Zoom or Skype, or a conference call.
  • For information about these tech options contact Rev. Bob Fisher, 267.323.3743, or via email.

Under Gov. Wolf's order, congregation gatherings are prohibited. Religious leaders and staff are allowed to work at church and travel to church to perform recorded/livestream services. If you do that, involve the fewest number of people possible and observe public distancing.

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Updated: April 2, 2020, 6:00 pm, by Bob Fisher