The news about the spread of the coronavirus is creating anxiety and worry in many communities. Hopefully, the spread of the virus will slow, but health officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization have called for communities to be prepared for the disease to spread in the United States.
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 New York State Department of Health. It is also important to remind folks 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.
Lutheran Disaster Response has shared recommendations from the ELCA Churchwide organization regarding communion practices, sharing of the peace, and large group gatherings in response to the coronavirus. You can find those recommendations in the Liturgical Resources tab along with recommendations from other denominational bodies.
General Information on Preventing the Spread of Disease
If you are sick, take care of yourself.
We care for the Body of Christ by first taking care of our own body. If you are sick, do not worsen your illness by trying to get to church or to a Synod sponsored event. By staying home and caring for yourself, you also avoid putting others at risk of catching your illness. If your children are sick, keep them home from worship, religious education, or youth ministry meetings or Synod Youth events.
In 2009, the CDC released a “Preparing for the Flu Toolkit for Faith-Based Organizations”. The document does not address the coronavirus directly, but the guidance in the document may prove helpful should the coronavirus begin to spread in New York. To download the toolkit, click here.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website
- For information specific to healthcare, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings
- These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses.
CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.
Implementing safe practices in your congregation during the sharing of peace and the distribution of Holy Communion are some ways we can remain safe by acting collectively and responsibly. Pass the peace and then pass the hand sanitizer. Those distributing should sanitize their hands before doing so. And remember, according to our Lutheran understanding, if you prefer to receive only the bread of Holy Communion, you still receive the full benefit of the sacrament. It is also important to remember that when sharing peace, an earnest exchange of glances and a heartfelt smile can sometimes mean more than even a handshake, as the sentiment of peace, support and togetherness shines through. By maintaining that small, cautious adjustments do not impact our ability to worship, we see that each of us, along with our holy siblings, can continue to receive God’s love and be a shining example of hope and courage with the Holy Spirit in our hearts.