In light of Vermont’s current elevated Covid case numbers and positivity rates, and predictions for the coming months, the Covid Response Team offers the following updated guidance for diocesan congregations:
- About Vaccination: It is now our expectation that everyone attending church in-person indoors, for whom a vaccine is available and possible, will be fully vaccinated and have received available boosters. While in the spirit of traditional Christian charity we do not feel we can state this as an absolute requirement, particularly for visitors, this is our expectation for all members of diocesan congregations. Vaccination is required for lectors, preachers, choir members, altar assistants/servers, ushers, and DHOs (Designated Health Officers. Proof of vaccination (a CDC Vaccination Record card) must be shown to the local clergy, designated staff member, or to the senior warden in congregations without clergy.
- About Masking and Social Distancing: Everyone over age 2 must be fully masked while indoors. Well-fitted face masks covering both mouth and nose must be kept on at all times. The following are possible exceptions, but are at the full discretion of the local clergy or congregational leaders:
- Lectors may remove masks while reading lessons provided there are at least 12 feet of social distance between the lector and all other persons
- Preachers may remove masks while preaching provided there is at least 12 feet of social distance between the preacher and all other persons. No one is required to remove their mask for reading or preaching.
- Masks may be removed momentarily to consume Communion while socially distanced in pews or chairs.
- Choir members/singers must remain fully masked and socially distanced from one another and others by at least 6 feet.
- Extra masks must be made available for anyone who comes to the church without one.
- DHOs must be designated and present for all indoor services and must enforce indoor masking and social distancing.
- If chairs rather than fixed pews are used, DHOs should make sure chairs are not moved closer together by members of different households.
- Ushers should remind people of the full-masking and social distancing requirements as each person enters the church.
- Masking and social distancing (6’ minimum) is generally required at all indoor church events/meetings/activities.
- About Ventilation: Provision must be made in all indoor spaces used by multiple persons to achieve at least 6 changes of fresh or filtered/purified air per hour. Simply exchanging indoor or unfiltered air is not adequate. The exchange of at least 6 changes of fresh or filtered/purified air per hour can be achieved with open windows/doors along with the use of fans such as box fans at the windows/doors, or with the use of MERV 13/HEPA filters and/or ultraviolet light filtration equipment in a sufficient number of portable machines and/or in duct work. It is not sufficient simply to use fans to recirculate indoor air, regardless of the number of times per hour fans may recirculate unfiltered/unpurified indoor air. If you are unsure about what constitutes 6 changes of fresh or purified/filtered air in your situation, the Rev. Bob Wilson at St. Mark’s Church, Newport may be contacted for further guidance (email@example.com). Commercial heating/air conditioning companies can provide specific technical consultation. The following parishes are among those in which portable and/or duct work filtration equipment has been installed, and can be contacted for information about their systems:
- Good Shepherd, Barre, the Rev. Earl Kooperkamp
- Holy Trinity, Swanton, the Rev. Rob Spainhour
- St. James, Woodstock, the Rev. Amy Spagna
- St. Marks, Newport, the Rev. Bob Wilson
- Trinity Church, Shelburne, the Rev. Fred Moser
- Signage: Signage stating that no one should enter the church if they are not feeling well should be in place and easily visible at all church entrances, at multiple places inside church buildings, and at entrances to all worship areas. Signage should also be placed at all church entrances, at multiple places inside church buildings, and at entrances to all worship areas clearly stating the expectation of full, boosted vaccination, continuous masking, and social distancing at all services, meetings, events, or other indoor activities.
- Coffee Hours, Eating/Drinking: Indoor Coffee hours should not be held at this time, and food/drinks should not be consumed indoors. The one exception to this is the momentary removal of a mask at one’s pew/chair for the sole purpose of consuming Communion during a service.
- This guidance comes as supplemental to the Covid Response Team’s guidance of September 28, 2021:
- Use masks for all (who are over 2 years old) while indoors (and even outdoors if you can) to control the spread of infection.
- Keep social distance of at least six feet between people, except those in family or household groups.
- Make sure there is good ventilation, using open windows and doors and exhaust fans, aiming to exchange the indoor air at least six times per hour; or rely on air purification.
- Do not hold indoor coffee hour gatherings until the point when the risk of infection is no longer a threat to our children and those with compromised immune systems.
The Covid Response Team of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont