As you know Pennsylvania is moving toward the ‘Green Phase’ of re-opening. Centre and Clearfield counties moved into green this past Friday. Bedford, Blair, Cambria, and Somerset counties are slated to move into green on June 5th. We have been trying to gather guidance on our churches re-opening and what the state is requiring of us.
There are several resources pasted below. The most helpful, I believe comes from our PA Government. The first is a link to the Re-Opening page which contains a lot of information. The second is a link to the news brief explaining the transition from Yellow to Green.
I would say to all of you to please be in conversation with your leadership about when you will re-open the church. Just because we are moving into the green phase, it doesn’t mean that you must re-open immediately. I would advise you to begin in person worship when you and your leadership are comfortable and able to do so. I know that you will continue to be cautious as you enter into this new phase of opening and begin to move toward worship.
I have also pasted the breakdown of the aspect of the green phase below. You will notice immediately that the green phase says there can be no gatherings of over 250 people. It also says that businesses should not exceed 50% of their building capacity.
To make things more complicated the news brief which is linked below says: “Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of congregate worship are specifically excluded from the limitations established by the order. These institutions are strongly encouraged to enforce social distancing and other mitigation measures such as masking at their gatherings.”
We have the order saying no more than 250, but clarifying that these restrictions do not apply to places of worship, but encouraging congregations to wear masks and to follow social distancing practices. It does seem a bit confusing.
Might I suggest a way forward with these competing dynamics. Along with the administration I would strongly recommend wearing masks in worship, to refrain from singing, and making sure you are following social distancing practices. We should also be cleaning and disinfecting our sanctuaries after each service. Though the order is saying congregations are not bound by the limits, limiting our gathering size to 50% of building capacity seems to be a good idea. If we were to limit the numbers in our sanctuaries to 50% of capacity it would keep us spread out and help limit transmission of any infection.
Though I am sure you are going to do this anyway, I would also strongly encourage you to continue your streaming or making your services available via the internet. It may not be able to be done in the same way, but I have been truly encouraged and surprised by the numbers of people who are engaging and connecting with the services which you are sharing on line. I have spoken to a number of our colleagues who regularly have more people watching online worship than they have in regular Sunday services. I hope that there will be a way to continue this and reach out beyond the walls of our congregations.
I know that you will make the best choices for your congregations. You will make these with caution and care. May God bless you as you discern how to best move forward with your leadership.
PA Government Reopening page
PA Government news brief on reopening
CDC Community page
Guidelines for GREEN PHASE from Governor Wolf
Work & Congregate Setting Restrictions
Continued Telework Strongly Encouraged
Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Updated Business and Building Safety Requirements
All Businesses Operating at 50% Occupancy in the Yellow Phase May Increase to 75% Occupancy
Child Care May Open Complying with Guidance
Congregate Care Restrictions in Place
Prison and Hospital Restrictions Determined by Individual Facilities
Schools Subject to CDC and Commonwealth Guidance
Large Gatherings of More Than 250 Prohibited
Restaurants and Bars Open at 50% Occupancy
Personal Care Services (including hair salons and barbershops) Open at 50% Occupancy and by Appointment Only
Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities, and Personal Care Services (such as gyms and spas) Open at 50% Occupancy with Appointments Strongly Encouraged
All Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and shopping malls) Open at 50% Occupancy
Construction Activity May Return to Full Capacity with Continued Implementation of Protocols
All businesses must follow CDC and DOH guidance for social distancing and cleaning
Monitor public health indicators, adjust orders and restrictions as necessary