Changing course as COVID-19 cases rise

Risk-sensitive recommendations for Greater Northwest Area ministries

Overview

Updated Sept. 8, 2022 – We know many churches have been making their plans and decisions as cases have risen – changing and adapting based on risk. Other ministry sites have been asking for some additional guidance, so we offer these recommendations for you to consider. No two ministries are identical, so we have tailored our advice for the ‘average’ church (defined below), understanding that each church will adapt as their situation warrants.

This guidance is explicitly offered for Option 2 (Safe Local Practice) churches, but Option 1 (Basic Standard Practice) churches may also wish to consider this guidance when the situation warrants. As of September of 2022, remaining Option 1 ministries are free to make their own well-thought-out decisions regarding their COVID safety practices, with no remaining distinction from Option 2 ministries.

The following recommendations reference the overall risk assigned to a ministry site’s county on CovidActNow. As always, we expect all ministries to follow state and local guidance when it is more restrictive than recommendations provided by the GNW COVID-19 Response Team.

Our Recommendations

Selecting your county using the following tool will present our recommendation based on your county’s current risk level on CovidActNow. Click here for a PDF offering the entire guidance.

Use caution with daily new case data

We continue to see periodic delays and other anomalies in case data in some counties. System-wide, it is likely there is substantial undercounting as some number of cases identified with home testing go unreported.

For {COUNTY} County (borough/census area), the recommendation is Your risk profile is based on your county's data provided by CovidActNow.
  • Daily new cases per 100k: 0.00
  • Infection rate: 0.00 Omicron warning: Use caution when infection rate exceeds 1.1%.
  • Positive test rate: 0.00 Omicron warning: Use caution when test rate exceeds 5%.
  • Vaccinated (1+ dose): 0.00
  • Fully Vaccinated: 0.00

Other Items

Singing 

For specific guidance on singing, please refer to the existing music recommendations based on weekly case rates, in addition to these general recommendations. We’ve only mentioned singing in these new recommendations where we feel extra caution may be warranted due to the extreme transmissibility of the Delta and Omicron variants. Because of the unique risks associated with singing, our guidance does not align perfectly with CovidActNow’s categories, even as it uses the same data. 

Assumptions about the ‘average’ church 

We based our recommendations on the assumptions about the ‘average’ church listed below. Each ministry site should make appropriate adjustments based on its conditions. For example, a church with a larger sanctuary and smaller congregation may have less risk. Similarly, a multigenerational congregation with a large children’s ministry may have more risk. 

  • Mixed ages, but skewed to those over 65 
  • Few ‘at risk’ individuals (unvaccinated adults or children under 12, those who are immunocompromised or have significant underlying health conditions) 
  • Moderate ventilation; either ability to create a significant cross breeze with open windows and doors or forced air ventilation with typical filtration (not state of the art/not HEPA) 
  • Sanctuary space is about 2000 square feet or less 

Risk Mitigation 

These recommendations use a layered approach to risk mitigation, understanding that the following mitigations are possible for most ministry sites. We based this on the understanding that no single mitigation effort is fool-proof and that each contributes to lowering overall risk. 

  • Outdoors vs. indoors (dispersion and sun help) 
  • Without any singing vs. with singing (singing produces significantly more aerosol than speaking) 
  • Masked vs. no masks (masks protect others) 
  • Social distance or not (distance protects everyone) 
  • Size of gathering (easier to maintain social distance, less aerosol buildup, less risk of a large-scale outbreak if it goes wrong) 
  • Duration of gathering (less buildup of aerosols, less overall exposure risk) 
  • Time between gatherings (clear aerosols from the previous gathering) 

This data is provided by CovidActNow.org under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license. Data from the CovidActNow API used here may differ slightly from the data reported on their website due to differences in their update schedule for their website and API. If you have any issues with this dashboard, please contact Patrick Scriven at pscriven@pnwumc.org.