This information is being reviewed and may be revised. Please contact the COVID-19 Adaptation Team by emailing any questions to email@example.com – they will be forwarded to the group.
Updated May 3, 2021
Outdoor Small Groups Update
Outdoor small groups of up to 10 participants are now able to meet outdoors on church grounds. Since the exact scheduling of vaccinations is still quite variable and Covid cases are rising again, we will continue to discuss the possibility of indoor small-group meetings and returning to worship together over the coming months. We hope something more is possible at least for small groups indoors by early fall 2021.
In determining our guidelines for in-person church activities, we have paid close attention to the Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health social gathering recommendations. Social gathering guidance from these organizations appears to be the most data-driven guidance available and has helped guide the church’s decisions. Faith community and business-related gathering guidelines depart from these criteria and have been impacted by strong lobbying and are not necessarily consistent with more data-driven guidelines.
Small outdoor gatherings and meetings at the church may take place in three locations – on the west end of the church parking lot, the lawn at the west end of the building, or in the front (Macalester Street Side) of the church. It’s envisioned that these spaces will be used similar to the church’s indoor meeting space in the past. Space must be reserved with Ginger Schneider, Church Administrator. Participants must mask, maintain social distance and bring their own chairs. Tables and portable tents are available for your use and can be arranged with Ginger. To start, space will be available for church groups and activities but may open up to Community groups after a trial period. Each group must have a safety steward, who has reviewed policies and procedures for these gatherings and attends any gathering to assist attendees, keep attendance records and ensure safety procedures are adhered to. A cart with Covid safety supplies will be provided for use at each event. All church groups are encouraged to use these spaces to once again provide for face-to-face contact and fellowship. While the CDC has just eased some masking recommendations, we will continue to require that all participants be masked to ensure the safety and sense of well-being of all who attend an event. We will continue to monitor guidance and consider church policy updates.
Additional outdoor events are in the works to allow church members the opportunity for in-person church activity in small groups and possibly a larger church-organized activity for up to 50 participants. Some ideas may be prayer services, music, and Senior events. Sign-up will be required to ensure safety and social distancing. Stay tuned!
All planned in-person church activities will be open to anyone, regardless of whether or not you are vaccinated. Gatherings will all be socially distanced and mask-required events, but these events will not be zero-risk. They will be low-risk events, but not zero.
Until our clergy are vaccinated, they will not be meeting in person with congregants. Once vaccinated, clergy and possibly deacons could restart visiting vaccinated church members one-on-one. This would require a discussion between all involved before the visit and should follow the most recent CDC guidelines for in-person visiting.
We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming event.
Current Status as of March 26, 2021
Church Building: closed to in-person group activities
Church Activities: all online or otherwise canceled
Community Groups: all online or otherwise canceled
What we know now:
As you may know, the Minnesota Governor has relaxed the COVID-19 restrictions somewhat. These decisions are not made in isolation of the COVID-19-related data. Here are the three main factors from the Minnesota Governor’s website:
- How can we best control the spread of COVID-19 and keep Minnesotans safe?
- At the same time, how can we keep Minnesota employees and small businesses whole?
- What is the safest way we can gather with loved ones, send our kids to school, and keep our minds and bodies in good shape?
The guidance for religious gatherings remains:
- Strong recommendation is for virtual services ONLY.
- Places of worship remain open at 50% capacity but without an overall maximum capacity.
So, although we could legally begin meeting in person, our church chooses to follow the Minnesota Governor’s guidance and continue to operate under the Session’s previous decision to keep the building closed to in-person church activities until further notice.
The vaccine rollout is in process but very slow and targeted. Vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are 95% effective, thus there is a 5% chance a vaccinated person can become sick with COVID. Though experts report that this level of efficacy is nearly perfect.
As COVID research has progressed, it is evident that touching surfaces and contracting COVID from surfaces is less risky than originally thought. At this time the cleaning regimen for the church building will include daily (non-redundant) cleaning with hospital grade disinfectant applied only to high touch surfaces. This may be reevaluated in the future as more data become available.
What we don’t know
How many COVID cases there will be this winter. A significant winter spike is predicted and maybe the largest spike yet.
When we will achieve “herd immunity”. Vaccine roll out has been slow but is likely to change with the new administration. Current predictions are that vaccinations may wrap up any time between this summer and the end of 2021. It is anticipated that once vaccinations are complete, we hope to be close to or at “herd immunity”.
What it will mean if a significant number of people refuse vaccination and we do not achieve “herd immunity”.
How long the vaccines will be effective or when re-vaccination is needed to keep COVID from reappearing as a significant public health risk. These are longer-term questions.
Vaccinated persons may still spread COVID similar to unvaccinated persons so it is important that vaccinated persons continue to mask and social distance. More research is needed in this area. However vaccine experts feel that COVID vaccines will be similar to other very successful vaccines (measles and chickenpox).
If there will be additional orders from the Governor further limiting indoor gatherings as conditions change/worsen this winter.
The link below is an article written for Grandparents and provides a good overview of what vaccinated persons should and shouldn’t do. Current knowledge is that vaccines will help but protective behaviors cannot change until all are vaccinated and/or we achieve “herd immunity”. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/
There is a more recent article in the NYTimes newsletter that might also be helpful here, https://messaging-custom-
What we assume is ahead:
Given where things are now, Macalester Plymouth will be holding virtual services until at least May. At that point, there should be a decision whether to continue with virtual worship or transition to another model. It is anticipated that the form of worship in place in May will continue until October when Corinne returns from family leave and we are fully staffed. We may not have the staff resources to develop and implement a new model over the summer. If services are still virtual over the summer, other options to gather outdoors will be developed based on recommended safety guidelines.
The church will need to consider transitioning to an in-person or a hybrid worship/meeting model in conjunction with the timing of Corinne’s family leave as well as state recommendations and COVID prevalence
It is quite possible a return to church may include things like masks, social distancing, and live streaming depending on the success of vaccinating, research data available, and guidance from the State of Minnesota, CDC, etc.
As a church, we will start developing ideas for outdoor gatherings in the spring/summer and begin scheduling them as tentative.
We should also consider installing an outdoor tent that may be used for outdoor events.
Some of us will be vaccinated, but we can’t get over-confident. Life will NOT be back to “normal” or settle into a new normal anytime soon.
MPUC COVID Adaptation Team
OUTDOORS Recommendations as of August 11, 2020
Stephanie DeFrance Schmidt – Teacher of English Learners for Saint Paul Public Schools. Channels pandemic stress into the classic coping strategies of deep dives into COVID-19 research and learning how to make sourdough.
Paula Mackey – Physician, COVID-19 information junkie, high-risk group (age), and strictly quarantining with family pod
Kristie Ellickson – air pollution scientist (computer modeling) for the state of Minnesota. Following studies of associations between higher fine particle exposures and higher COVID-19 deaths in both US and European populations.
Tom Richardson – Background City Planner, experience collecting and distilling information to develop plans and programs. Keen COVID-19 follower.
Ginger Schneider – Office Administrator
Adam Blons – Lead Minister
Who We Are In this Pandemic
- We are recipients and bearers of God’s inclusive love.
- We are the church now and will continue to be the church as things change.
- We are all protectors of the physical and mental health of the congregation and the wider community.
- We are adaptable, flexible, and responsive to the needs and circumstances as they change, acknowledging the unknown and the risks.
- We are a web of relationships and those are a priority.
- We are transparent in our communication so that the congregation is educated and informed.
- We are guided by facts, seeking science-based guidance from the MN Dept of Health, our denominations (PCUSA and UCC), and research conducted by medical institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, etc.
- We are accountable to one another, helping each other adhere to our commitments and practices.
- We are committed to the sustainable stewardship of our resources (time, work, space, money).
- We are followers of Jesus, who prioritized serving the most vulnerable.
Key Indicators We Are Watching
- Mutations, variations, new treatments available and treatment effectiveness
- Period of time with decreasing cases and/or cases per 100,000 in MN and expectation trend will continue (open further)
- Period of time with increasing cases and/or cases per 100,000 in MN and expectation trend will continue (further restrictions)
- Likelihood of encountering someone with COVID: Georgia Tech’s COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool (Example: On 7/23 with an event size of 10, there is a 15% chance that an individual with COVID-19 would be present.)
- Percent positive COVID -19 tests in Minnesota
Below are the potential phases of reopening the church space and reinitiating in-person gatherings. The outdoor gatherings for 10 people or less are in a final draft form and ready for decision making. The indoor gatherings still require information, thought, and more investigation at this time. The indoor gathering information is not yet at decision-making status, but is included for informational purposes. All potential scenarios include the following sections: 1. General recommendations, 2. Space considerations, 3. Cleaning and disinfecting rooms, 4. The norms of participant behavior, and 5. Information pertaining to safety stewards.
The COVID-19 Adaptation Team suggests after the church has operated with outdoor small events for a month the church conducts a survey of the congregation to determine desires/concerns regarding beginning indoor activities. We suggest that it is important to ask congregants if the in-person meetings are meeting their needs and if there is a readiness to meet in indoor spaces.
Current guidelines suggest that people keep a minimum of 6 feet of distance between themselves and other persons and wear a mask.
One of these trained volunteers must be present at all church activities. They will be trained in the church’s procedures as outlined below. They are charged with reinforcing expectations and providing reminders to participants. They are there to answer questions, collect data, offer reassurance and take some of the pressure off of group leaders to monitor group behavior. Details of their tasks and expectations are outlined below.
In the event someone who attends a church event tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracing will need to be carried out in coordination with state agencies. The CDC defines this as follows. All close contacts must be identified. For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. Close contacts should be notified of their potential exposure as soon as possible.
The identity or other identifying information of the person with a positive COVID-19 test or symptoms, will not be revealed, alluded to, or confirmed by the contact tracer, even if explicitly asked by a contact. The contact made to those with potential exposure must be culturally appropriate and accessible based on that individual’s physical abilities (hearing, ability to access email, etc). Additional details are found in the CDC guidance on this topic, see references.
Indoor – Socially DistancedFall/Winter
Lower Risk/New NormalEffective post-Vaccine Effective treatment achievement of herd immunity
|Small Under 10 people||Types of Activities: Farmer’s MarketPastoral VisitsStaff MeetingGroup watching youtube church prayer ServiceChurch groups/committee chair/Tents, markingsCommunity groups||Same||Same|
|Larger Gatherings||None||None||Return of: Sanctuary WorshipSinging and Choir Fellowship events|
General Recommendations for all Small Outdoor Activities
- Identify, recruit and train Safety Stewards (curriculum TBD) from each regular group or committee and some extras
- Desirable qualities for Safety Steward: comfortable in contentious situations, willing to be direct, be an authority figure, good communication, gentle and kind but firm, digitally competent
- MPUC staff members will be trained as stewards as well
- Name badge/ID denoting Safety Steward
- Stewards model expected behavior: distancing, mask, taking turns
- Stewards will arrive ½ hour before and stay ½ hour after any outdoor small group meeting to ensure separation with other groups and smooth transitions, and clean any tables or shared equipment
- Social distancing measures to be marked, explained, enforced
- Stewards to monitor: no singing, no touching, no refreshments, no shared objects
- Stewards guide/direct attendees to appropriate place
- Each person will have their own space, even if couple/family pod, except in special circumstances (child)
- Traffic patterns marked, participants bring own folding/lawn chairs, doors posted/locked, appropriate spacing denoted
- Record keeping:
- Log of attendees and dates of gatherings in order to facilitate contact tracing for > 3 weeks
- Online google document questionnaire completed prior to gathering (if able)
- Steward to checklist of attendees, touch-free for attendees, enter info is missing
- Posted covenants/agreements/norms to follow expected practices
Norms of Small Group Outdoor Participant Behavior
- RSVP for the event via link or phone call. This helps ensure physical distancing allows for communication of expectations, guidelines, and practices.
- Since activities will be outside, pay attention to the weather and have a plan for last-minute changes
- Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water at home before coming.
- Eat and drink water before coming.
- Use the restroom before leaving home (bathrooms are only available for emergencies).
- Bring a mask.
- Bring your own chair.
- Stay home if you are feeling any symptoms, have proven or likely COVID-19 exposure (Self-screening tools available)
- Consult with your own medical professionals to assess your own risk with these activities.
- If a group member is unable to attend, consider using technology to connect them via phone or the internet. Groups are responsible for setting up their own technology. Note: Church wifi may not reach the outdoor meeting space.
- Wear a mask or clear face shield. If you forget yours, take one from the box.
- Keep mask over mouth AND nose. Get a tight fit and do not adjust. (Tricks for glasses users: use a small piece of tissue on the bridge of the nose and use medical tape along the nose to prevent steaming).
- Sanitize your hands. Do not touch eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Register your attendance/screening in the virtual guest book. (Safety Stewards can register you.)
- Continue to stay six feet away as you move about.
- Place your chair in a marked space, and stay six feet apart from people not in your family group.
- Stay in assigned small groups (groups may want to form by risk levels, age groups, and risk behaviors)
- Keep furniture in place.
- Carefully dispose of all trash.
- Follow marked traffic flow arrows.
- Do not sing or yell.
- Bathroom – See Safety Steward for emergency bathroom use. Only one person inside at a time (or two if the assistance is needed). Wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
- After touching nose/eyes or using a tissue, sanitize hands.
- Sanitizer (fragrance-free if possible for allergies)
- Face masks
- Face mask/sanitizer/tissue Station (that can be moved in and out)
- Trash – safe handling, foot pedal lidded.
- Small groups – stable, age, risk
- Virtual guest book/screener – google form with a QR code for person. Safety Stewards can do for people as well.
- Gadget in case Safety Stewards don’t have a smartphone
Take special care with unpredictable factors
- People’s behavior before the event
- Children’s movements
- Children needing snacks
- Children playing
- Under two year old do not mask
- Development of illness or distress of any sort during event
Space Considerations for Outdoor Small Groups
Events that could use an outdoor tent space – Farmer’s Market, Pastoral Visits (would require privacy), Staff Meeting (would require privacy), Prayer Service, Church groups/committees, Community groups.
- Proposal for a Tent with no walls, with chairs and markings inside to designate seating areas
- Consider tent for the parking lot and/or lawn west of the building.
- The parking lot is solid level ground and dries faster. West end of the parking lot can avoid traffic flow issues but dumpsters would need to be addressed.
- Use tables stored in the garage for CSA, chairs will be brought by each individual attending (no cleaning required for BYO chairs).
- No sides on the tent for airflow.
- A schedule for room availability is being developed by Adam and Ginger based on staff availability and current church meeting schedules. Meeting slots will be 2 hours long with 1 hour of meeting time and ½ hour of pre and post-meeting time.
- Paint pavement with water-based paint to mark chair locations with 6-foot social distancing.
- Not Predictable – Weather. Groups should cancel gathering if the weather is threatening. Liability for storm damage to the tent?
- Tent – Parking lot measures 37 (from the edge of the west garden to the south driveway) by 50 (from the north Handicapped sign by the rain garden to the south No Parking sign). A 20×30 tent will accommodate 10 persons in a circle with 6-foot social distancing between each individual with a space for people to enter the tent. The dilemma remains that a new home will need to be found for the dumpsters. A City permit is required for a tent, as well as a Fire Certification.
- Bathrooms west end of building
- Note: Bathroom procedure – one at a time. Safety Stewards will have the ability to open the west door if a bathroom is needed.
- Air exchange? Vent fan does turn on when light is on in the bathroom
- Cleaning protocol addressed above
- Block further building access. Consider purchasing movable stanchions with retractable belts for this and future COVID-19 movement control.
Outdoor Small Group Cleaning
- The Safety Steward is responsible for making sure all necessary cleaning and disinfecting is done for each event by either one group member or the safety steward.
- Areas unoccupied for 7 or more days need only routine cleaning.
- We will need to keep cleaning and disinfection products available at the meeting site but safely stored from children
- If a person who we find has contracted COVID-19 participated in any outdoor or indoor church activity, cleaning must be delayed 24 hours or as long as possible beyond 24 hours.
- These are the EPA approved cleaners for disinfectants that kill the SARS-like COV-2 virus. https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19
- If reusable gloves are used instead of disposable, these gloves should be used for no other purpose than cleaning potentially COVID-19 contaminated surfaces.
- Eye protection may be recommended for disinfectant use.
- Church will place a hazard sign for body fluid cleanup in bathrooms.
- Disinfect any shared electronic devices including computers, phones, tablets, copiers, printers, and keyboards after each use. If these devices are open for community use, i.e. not staff/clergy only, a sign or instruction sheet should be attached to the device or its case. Electronic devices can be disinfected with a 70% alcohol solution in the form of a wipe or started into a paper towel. Clorox wipes are also effective for electronic device cleaning.
- Baby wipes are not effective at killing coronavirus. This should be posted in bathrooms.
- Note to pastors, safety stewards, and church staff – If social distancing is inadvertently broken during a pastoral visit, the pastor and visitor shall, upon returning to their home, put their clothes in a plastic bag or launder them immediately prior to other personal or employee activities. Pastors could consider bringing changes of clothes to work with them. This is a conservative precaution, it is much less likely that COVID-19 is transferred on soft surfaces.
Steps for washing and disinfecting any items (tables, chairs) borrowed from the church. These cleaning steps may be reduced by groups bringing their own table, chairs, supplies.
- Two totes have been purchased for all cleaning supplies, pink for clean items, and grey for dirty items, and will be available for each event. After the use of the tote, wipe down the handle and the outside of each cleaning liquid bottle.
- Put on gloves
- Clean dirty surfaces with soap and water prior to disinfection
- Spray table and chairs with EPA approved cleaners. Leave wet for the amount of time recommended on the disinfectant label. Wipe with a paper towel.
- A rubbish bin with a plastic bag insert should be available for tissues. The plastic bag should be removed with gloves.
- Wash hands for 20 seconds after cleaning.
Bathroom cleaning for all small outdoor events (cleaning of bathrooms will be completed by the church cleaning service. This cleaning will be reduced by using bathrooms for emergencies only.)
- These are frequent-touch areas and should be cleaned and disinfected once per day or when visibly dirty.
- toilet flush handles
- door handles, latches,
- panels and edges
- faucet handles
- soap dispenser levers
- baby changing table
- toilet bowls
- toilet seats
- areas around the toilet
- Other areas (floors, stall sides, walls) do not need to be disinfected unless there has been blood or body fluid present. While preparing to clean up body fluid/blood, put out a hazard sign.
MDH Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Restrooms Guidance. https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/risk/docs/guidance/cleanersinfo.pdf
CDC Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html
https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/interim-guidance-public-and-private-facilities – frequency recommendation
https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/factsheet-covid-19-environmental-cleaning.pdf – frequency recommendation
https://www.uchealth.org/today/ins-and-outs-of-disinfecting-coronavirus/ “mashing into oblivion”
Great infographic on cleaning and disinfecting – https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.tpchd.org/home/showdocument%3Fid%3D6446&ved=2ahUKEwjo7M-SgaPqAhUZa80KHVyvAk44ChAWMAJ6BAgHEAE&usg=AOvVaw1B6FkUIFbwEehmzC3Em0e1
CDC Instructions on contact tracing: