this letter has been sent out to the members, but it is also listed here

rationale for decision is below the letter

September 23, 2020

 

To: members of First United Church of Christ – Carlisle

From: the church Reopening Committee

 

We know there are those in our congregation who are frustrated at the delay in our Church reopening. Our committee also knows how important it is to be transparent about how our reopening committee is approaching the difficult decision about reopening and wants you to know what information we are using to inform our decision making. We believe our approach is based on sound medical judgment and closely follows CDC guidelines. For that reason, we are providing this letter which outlines our ideas and the pros and cons of reopening. This information may help you, our church members, better understand our approach to reopening in the face of the Covid pandemic. What follows on a separate page is a summary of our discussions.

 

We are currently in the final stages of planning and this includes developing a protocol for cleaning and sanitizing the Church each week. It is very unlikely that 2 services can be provided on Sunday because of the difficulty in providing thorough cleaning in such a short turnaround time. We hope to purchase one or several defogging devices for sanitizing and this will provide a significant cost saving to the Church compared to using the services of an outside professional cleaning and sanitizing company.

 

If all goes as expected, and that includes no spike in the number of Covid cases in Cumberland County and we are able to complete the purchase of defogging equipment,  we hope to reopen First UCC for in-person services on Sunday, Oct. 25th at 10 am. Streaming/video services (with teleconferencing available) will continue. Also, on the same date Christian Education classes will restart. We hope that when we reopen that we can continue to have services and Christian Education weekly but will continue to monitor our protocols and community Covid incidence, to see if any adjustments to these time lines need to be done.

 

There will be signs posted both inside and outside of the Church which will provide medical guidelines to allow entry to the Church. We will be taking your temperature and asking questions about any medical symptoms which would possibly exclude you from attending the service. We always encourage you to wear a mask and if you do not have one, one will be provided to you. Ushers will be both at the Church entry and in the Church to provide further guidance in healthy protocols that have been developed and to seat you with safe social distancing.

 

Please see the discussions that follow on a separate page. We hope to see you in Church soon!

 

Thank You,

Church Reopening Committee

 

Greg Lewis, Chair                               Robert Myers

Michael Coulson                                 Kate Poe

David McKibben                                Dick Weary

Shari Minnich                                     Kirk Wilson

 

 

Pros of reopening the Church soon:

1.The Cumberland County positivity rate in the last 2 weeks has varied between 3.9% and 4.2%. Under 5% is considered good to relax social gathering restrictions.

  1. The incidence rate of Covid in Cumberland County in the past 2 weeks has varied between 29% and 31.8%. Any number under 50% is considered a positive sign and suggests that reopening the community should be considered.

Reasons to consider a more cautious reopening:

  1. Our Church tends to have an older population who are more vulnerable to Covid and who may have more severe health consequences.

2.We are aware of several churches in which at least 1 member has Covid-19. It is not known for sure where those persons acquired the disease.

3.There is a spike in Covid cases at Claremont Nursing and Rehab facility.

4.There is a prediction of a possible spike in Covid in the next 2 to 3 weeks as schools reopen, and students return. There are already several students in the Big Spring School District and at least one in the Carlisle School District who have tested positive for the virus. There is also a nationwide spike in cases on college campuses and a fear that these students will return home and infect household members. There are numerous colleges in Central Pa. where this spike could occur with consequences for some of us in Cumberland County.

  1. It appears that there are more churches in our region that are closed to in-church gatherings and instead are providing services outdoors or by live streaming/video.
  2. In a recent survey of congregants (91 people responded), 63 wanted to attend church when it reopens and 22 said “no,” and 9 said “maybe.” In reference to the second survey question, 39 were happy to livestream/video for now versus 24 who said “no.” Thus, a majority of our congregants who responded to the survey were happy to have the Reopening Committee continue to broadcast our services by livestream/video and gather more information before reopening.
  3. A large number of church members surveyed appear happy with a phased-in approach to reopening. This would mean that potentially we would meet in the church for services once or twice per month initially. Thereafter, collect feedback to see if this approach is safe to allow a full reopening.

Other points:

  1. The State will only allow 50% capacity (increased from 25%) to gather socially indoors–starting Sept. 21. There is a Bill in the PA. Legislature that may relax these restrictions further for churches and a vote on this Bill is pending.
  2. Singing (e.g. Choir, congregational) inside a building, and especially without proper air filtration, has been discouraged scientifically because of the potential of spreading the virus more than 6 feet–up to 15 to 20 feet.
  3. Part of our discussions include how to safely clean and sanitize the Church. We have discussed these issues with outside professionals and received estimates for the cost of doing this. However, we are also looking at doing the cleaning and sanitizing ourselves – which will save us money.
  4. We have developed screening protocols that align closely with CDC guidelines. Please understand that we, as a committee, want to reopen the Church in a timely manner as soon as it can be safely done.