From Executive Minister Treena Duncan – Saturday, March 7, 2020
Yesterday, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that Alberta now has two cases of COVID-19: a Calgary woman who was a passenger on the Grand Princess Cruise Ship in February and an Edmonton man who returned from travels in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.
Today, British Columbia’s Minister of Health and Chief Medical Officer announced six new COVID-19 cases in the Coastal and Fraser Valley areas, bringing BC’s total cases to 27.
The BC health officials noted that COVID-19 can be transmitted at public events and also made reference to religious gatherings. They said: “As a result, we recommend social distancing and forgoing usual greetings. As an alternative, we recommend considering virtual online gatherings.”
Each of you within your own communities will need to decide how you may want to respond to this BC recommendation. I commend all of you who have already been making use of guidelines to set up precautionary measures in your congregations.
I would like to suggest the following:
1. Don’t panic but take precautionary measures
2. As public health professionals continue to remind us, please practice good flu season hygiene which includes:
- ·Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- ·Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
- ·Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
- ·Cough and sneeze into your sleeve and not into your hands.
- ·Stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.
3. In terms of Worship:
- encourage people who are sick or experiencing flu-like systems to stay home. (Please note that a factor of the COVID-19 spread through the South Korean Church was that people who were sick came to church because attendance was mandatory).
- Make alcohol-based hand sanitizer available in the worship space and throughout the church building for all to use. (although our office is aware that many stores are currently sold-out of alcohol-based hand sanitizer)
- Use alternate forms of greeting or passing of the peace rather than handshakes or hugs.
- Take precautions to reduce the number of people touching communion elements and trays.
- Use individual communion cups rather than a common cup with grape juice.
- Place a box of tissues in every pew.
- Encourage people who use church buildings to wash their hands and post reminder signs throughout the church.
- Regularly wipe down commonly used areas touched by churchgoers, like door handles, pew tops, and railings, regularly.
4. Pastoral Care
- Ensure pastoral care visitors take all necessary precautions in personal hygiene before and after pastoral visits in hospitals and homes.
- Remind people who are ill to stay at home in order to recover.
- Remain in contact with those who may be vulnerable or quarantined to ensure that they have their spiritual, social and physical needs attended to.
5. Please stay home and get medical help if you are experiencing ALL THREE of the following symptoms of COVID- 19: Fever; Cough; Difficulty breathing. Yesterday, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer advised that people with symptoms NOT go to emergency departments but contact Health Link at 811 to receive direction.
Blessings to you all as we live into the uncertainty of what this means for all of us.
In gratitude for your service,
Regional Executive Minister, Chinook Winds and Pacific Mountain Regions
• COVID-19: United Church Statement and Emergency Plan. References to Sunday School and Communion on p. 16 of Emergency Plan.