Where are we now and what’s ahead?
The FCC COVID Safety Protocol Committee has been meeting weekly since last summer to review ongoing community COVID transmission data and develop our church building and worship protocols based on the results. Our goal is to develop, and continually review and evaluate, our safety response to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect the health of our congregation. We’re all in this together.
The Committee consists of representatives from the congregation, the Church Board, Church Staff and Pastors, and is facilitated by parishioner Cathy Paine, chair. Our work has not always been easy to say the least, as our worship has run the gamut from months of Zoom-based virtual services to finally re-opening for in-person worship in March after multiple weeks of declining Covid numbers.
The operating principles of the Committee are these: “ 1We will protect the health of our congregation to the extent possible, keeping in mind the physical, emotional and spiritual health of all. 2We will be flexible and ready to pivot, based on current COVID data.”
Our COVID assessment is based on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Community Level framework. This looks at three primary measures in Lane County and provides a risk level for COVID transmission in the county: weekly new reported cases per 100,000 people, weekly COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 people, and the percent of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients. Based on these measures and how they interact, the CDC assigns a rating of High, Medium or Low to the county. This rating changes frequently (sometimes within a day) depending on the measures. You will see a sign as you enter church each Sunday indicating the current CDC Community Risk rating. You can see this data at the website: https://covidactnow.org/us/oregon-or/county/lane_county/.
The important things to know right now due to the CURRENT risk level:
KN95 Masks are required within the FCC church building. You should also wear a mask at all times when in public if you have recently been exposed to or infected with COVID, or you’ve been told by a health professional to wear a mask based on your personal risk factors. Pick up a mask at the church if you need one.
Seating in the church sanctuary is self-selected. However, we encourage everyone to socially distance as much as possible, leaving space between you and other individuals not in your family or group.
Fellowship hour resumed June 26th outside with refreshments. Pastors will move outside to greet congregants as they leave to minimize grouping in the lobby. That way everyone can leave when they want to do so.
First Congregational Church supports booster shots, which offer necessary protection against infection, serious illness and death from all COVID variants, and are 90% effective at preventing hospitalization from Omicron.
Testing is important if you experience symptoms or have been recently exposed to COVID. Every residential household in the U.S. can now order 8 additional free at-home tests. Please test at home or at a testing center and follow the CDC guidelines if you are exposed or experience symptoms.
COVID Updates Regarding Our Kids
The FDA has now approved Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines for children 6 months old to their 5th birthday.
Children 5-11 years old are now eligible to get their booster shot (if they received second shot at least 6 months ago).
First Congregational Church supports vaccination as a tool for staying healthy and keeping our community healthy. FCC also highly encourages parents to consult with their pediatrician regarding questions or concerns about getting their children vaccinated.
It is impossible to totally predict the course of this virus and its variants. We hope to be able to resume other functions in our worship such as communion, sharing the peace and singing without masks; this will depend on the level of COVID transmission in Lane County, and the level within our congregation. We expect the numbers to continue to be volatile and changeable and so watch for signs in the church and messages in the monthly Shalom newsletter and the daily all church emails for guidance. Always feel free to contact church staff with any questions or concerns.
Safety and care for others in our church family and our community is and always has been a central tenant of our faith. By following these guidelines, we show love for each other and our greater community.