calendar May 14, 2021 in Public Health

Update on Mask Requirements

Updated May 15, 2021

The CDC released new guidance for vaccinated individuals May 13. Guidance has been changing over the last week, and this does not require immediate change by congregations. The CDC has not yet released updates for businesses, schools, or community gatherings.

Update: Pennsylvania follows CDC guidelines on masks. It is important to note that Governor Wolf has said that he will not end the mask mandate in Pennsylvania until 70% of eligible persons are vaccinated. Currently, we are at 54% vaccinated. The rest of the governor’s restrictions remain in place until May 31.

As was noted in our webinar May 11 with Dr. Tim Babinchak, adults who are unvaccinated and children, as well as people with conditions that can lead to more serious disease, are now the population most at risk. Update: Contacted after the CDC announcement, Dr. Babinchak said: “My thoughts and recommendations are not changed by the CDC announcement.” He also stated agreement with the ecumenical protocol described below.

We encourage you to continue acting to protect the safety of your congregation and your community.

The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship and Sacramental Practices released the following helpful advice for congregations May 13:

From our Conveners:  

The latest CDC guidance for masks and social distancing is for what INDIVIDUALS CAN do– not what CONGREGATIONS (in which both vaccinated and unvaccinated people gather together) SHOULD do. 

As a Consultation we are committed BOTH to CDC guidance AND to the principle that we will not cause stigma about either illness or vaccination status. We encourage compassion for all who are sick and vaccination, at the soonest time possible, for all who are unvaccinated. 

Many congregations include people who are unvaccinated, including children, older persons who have not yet been able to be vaccinated, and some who have refused vaccination. Unvaccinated people of any age can get the virus and spread it to others who are unvaccinated.  

When we are among those who may be unvaccinated, we recommend being as the unvaccinated for the sake of the unvaccinated– for their safety, and to avoid stigmatizing them.  

We are one body in Christ, no more protected than the least protected among us.  

In concrete terms, whenever we gather in groups that may include non-vaccinated people, we continue to recommend that all wear masks, that households remain six feet apart, and that congregational and choral singing be avoided indoors.