COVID Guidelines Updates
UPDATE: March 2023
We continue to expect that all eligible in-person attendees receive their initial two shot COVID vaccination, and strongly urge the new bivalent booster for those who are eligible. Vaccination is the number one tool we have to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe. Of course those too young to be vaccinated are exempted from these requirements.
Masks are optional for Sunday services and other in-person events whenever CDC COVID levels are low or medium. This guideline is based on CDC guidelines, input from choral associations, and newer studies that document the effectiveness of one-way masking, especially when those masks are N-95, KN-95, or equivalent. At all times, and especially in smaller groups, we ask that you be considerate of members who may have immune issues or be at higher risk. Please also keep in mind that members or staff may choose to remain masked at different times for different reasons, and please respect each others’ decisions.
We will continue to ventilate the sanctuary with outside air, and use high quality air filters in classrooms and other spaces. In addition, we will continue to set some chairs in the sanctuary apart for those who prefer distance.
If you have been exposed to COVID (or flu, or any contagious disease), please use extra caution, mask in public, and stay in, when possible. If you are experiencing COVID symptoms, we ask that you not attend in person events. When in doubt, stay home! Services will continue to be streamed online.
With masks optional, we can enjoy food together, indoors as well as outdoors.
COVID Levels and Adjustments
These are in alignment with CDC recommendations. We will continue to follow CDC guidelines, which means a return to requiring masks if Community COVID levels move into the “high” range. In addition, our guidelines may change at any time to best suit the needs of our congregation and the moment in this rapidly changing environment. We ask your patience with us as we make adjustments.
UPDATE: March 1, 2022
Late last week the CDC dramatically altered its approach to COVID precautions. This evening, the Executive Team had a lengthy conversation about how to handle these new recommendations, drawing guidance from various sources, including COVIDActNow, the CDC, and other UU congregations. Our considerations included the unique nature of Sunday services, current COVID and hospitalization levels in the community, our multi-generational congregation, and our commitment to inclusiveness.
For the moment, indoor mask and vaccination requirements will remain in place. All who attend in-person should wear a good fitting mask over their mouth and nose, (please no gators, bandanas, or valve masks). N-95 or KN-95 masks are especially recommended. We expect all eligible in-person attendees to be fully vaccinated, and if you are experiencing possible COVID symptoms, we ask that you stay home and join the service online.
Beginning this week, we will no longer require advanced reservations for in-person Sunday attendance. As we reduce social distancing, members may sit with one another as they choose; however, we do ask that anyone who requests extra space be respected. We will continue to ventilate the sanctuary with outside air, and use high quality air purifiers for classrooms. Along with masking, proper ventilation is the single biggest step we can take to reduce risk.
For the moment, children will continue to go directly to religious education classes on Sunday mornings. We will monitor our sanctuary attendance and COVID levels to determine when we are ready for kids to rejoin us in the sanctuary for the Time for All Ages.
We will continue to use the RSVP system to sign up for hospitality. Your help is needed this Spring and Summer! Please click here to sign up for upcoming weeks.
Services will continue to be streamed on YouTube each Sunday morning. We recognize that many people may not be ready to return to in-person services, or for whatever reason may be unable to be present on a Sunday morning, and we plan to continue hybrid services from now on. Our online congregation will always be just as important to us as those who attend services in person.
We are looking forward to the day when we can begin to sing hymns together once again, and are closely following guidance from choral professionals on this point.
Until we lift mask restrictions, we will continue to hold off on serving food indoors. This week’s Feast of Decadent Chocolate will still be a carryout event – we very much appreciate the extra effort it takes to bring your chocolate goodies individually wrapped. If you are joining us online, please write to email@example.com to have chocolate delivered to your home on Sunday!
We have no doubt that we are moving too slowly for some, and too quickly for others. While we recognize that these requirements may differ from many schools and workplaces, we believe it is best to err on the side of caution until numbers are down further, and we see the results of the new CDC guidelines in our larger community. We are especially aware that a number of members of our congregation have medical issues that place them at heightened risk for severe COVID, even when vaccinated. Maintaining masks for the moment will also allow us to be safer as we reduce social distancing on Sunday mornings. We will not be masked forever, and it is heartening to see so much progress made against the disease.
Thank you for your patience – now, and during this entire two year ordeal. “Normality” returns slowly, but it does return.
Rev. Dan Schatz, Tom Tolt, and Wayne Bullaughey (your Executive Team)
UPDATE: January 2022
In order to protect public health in our community, we are moving to online services for the month of January 2022. People with roles in the service should come to the congregation as usual – all others will join from home via YouTube Live. We expect this to be a brief measure – but it is an important one as case numbers in our community reach new highs. Smaller in-person events at the congregation are still permitted with adequate air filtration, masking, and distancing.
UPDATE: December 8, 2021
Our services are now hybrid with limited in-person attendance and live streaming on our YouTube channel. To RSVP for a service, please go to ucwc.org/sundays. Sunday school is held on alternate Sundays – for the time being, with children going directly to classes. On Sundays the sanctuary will be vented with outside air and the classrooms will use high quality air purifiers. We require that masks be worn at all times in the building, and all eligible people 12 and over attending in person events be fully vaccinated. For the time being, we will not sing congregational hymns indoors or serve food.
While vaccinations for children over 5 have allowed us to continue meeting in person past our previous thresholds, we continue to monitor COVID levels closely and all plans are subject to change if needed for safety.
As weather permits, we encourage outdoor events of any size. Please wear masks for events involving singing or children under 12, and please respect the wishes of participants who prefer masks to be worn.
Small and medium sized indoor events may take place in the upstairs spaces of the congregation, with masking, ventilation from outdoors and social distancing. We especially encourage use of the sanctuary for this purpose. This includes indoor, in-person religious education events. Please no food at indoor events.
As always, these guidelines are subject to change based on current COVID 19 numbers.
UPDATE: August 10, 2021:
New addition: Guidelines for small indoor events
Any indoor meeting for UCWC purposes is permitted only for purposes where youths under age 12 are not expected to attend (e.g. small groups, committee meetings). Masks are once again required when meeting indoors.
For outdoor UCWC gatherings:
Where children under age 12 participate in an outdoor setting, all involved must wear masks. When dropping masks to eat or drink, please be sure to maintain social distancing. For outdoor events involving only those age 12 and up, masks are strongly recommended.
Please note: Your church leaders are still hopeful that it may be possible to resume small, in-person worship at our sanctuary at some point early this fall. A final decision on that will be made once Rev. Dan returns from sabbatical later in August.
Outdoor gatherings continue to be the safest. Under current conditions, and subject to change as conditions warrant, small gatherings are permitted indoors where children who are too young to be vaccinated are not attending (e.g. committees, small group ministries). Gatherings must be off-site (UCWC building is still closed). Please honor any request for participants to wear masks, or for allowing remote participation via Zoom or similar virtual method (i.e. hold a hybrid meeting).
Spring 2021 Guidelines
As more of us are vaccinated, we look forward to meeting with each other in person again. As we determine when and how it is safe to hold such events, we hold to Unitarian Universalist principles of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, justice, equity and compassion, and the interconnected web of all existence of which we are a part. We also keep in mind the “guidance of reason and the results of science.” In particular we emphasize safety, inclusivity, and public health.
Because the COVID situation has fluctuated in Chester County, and because new variants appear to be both more contagious and more deadly than previous ones, we have turned to objective criteria that must be met before we can hold in-person events, and we ask that all events keep in mind the needs of those who are not vaccinated or have unvaccinated people in their immediate circles. We will continue not to hold indoor events at our building or in-person worship services through the Summer.
These guidelines apply to official events only – of course some friends will choose to visit with each other in person. We do ask that regular UCWC groups honor the guidelines and resist the temptation to hold unofficial group meetings.
Criteria for Events:
For in-person events (other than drive-up / walk-up), the Test Positivity rate for Chester County must have been below 5% as reported by the Chester County Health Department for at least the two weeks prior to the event.
To see the most recent Chester County Health Department report, click here and scroll down to the chart on page 2 indicating “Positive PCR Tests” for Chester County. “Percent PCR Positivity” is in the last column.
Drive Up / Walk Up Events
Outdoor events that do not require extended gatherings are acceptable even if the test positivity rate exceeds 5%, so long as social distancing and masking are carefully maintained. Examples of such events include viewing an outdoor art display at the congregation, picking up kindness rocks, etc.
Regular Groups and Events:
For regular events, i.e. Small Group Ministry, Adult RE, etc., it is vital err on the side of inclusiveness. If any participating individual is unvaccinated or uncomfortable with an outdoor in-person meeting, they should be encouraged to inform the event organizer, and the event will be moved back online or a remote attendance option should be offered. We urge groups to agree that such requests will be fully supported. The assumption should be that such an event would be an exception, rather than the rule. Remember also that holding discussion groups (ie, small group ministry sessions or adult RE) outdoors at a social distance can present difficulties for members with hearing loss. For this reason, a one-time informal “Meet and See” is preferable to holding regular meetings or full-scale sessions/classes outdoors.
For special events, planned for outdoors, every effort should be made to be as inclusive as possible, and consider the needs of households with unvaccinated people (especially households with children). Steps need to be taken to maintain safety for all.
Guidelines for Events:
- It is impossible for us to know who is fully vaccinated and who is not. At the same time, outdoor transmission has been determined to be extremely rare. Therefore, at events of fewer than 8 people, masks are optional so long as social distancing can be maintained and everyone present agrees. Groups should agree ahead of time to respect the wishes of anyone who wishes the event to be fully masked, and participants should always be prepared to mask.
- Events of more than 8 people, and all events involving children too young to be vaccinated, should be held outside. At those events, or events at which social distancing cannot be consistently maintained, we ask that all participants wear masks.
- 6 feet of social distancing should be maintained.
- Event organizers should have sanitizer on hand.
- Food should not be provided (people can bring own beverages). This may change for specific events over summer, ie, “Bring Your Own ice Cream” social, which must be approved by the Executive Team.
- Group singing should be avoided due to additional COVID risks
- In the week prior to an event the positive test rate for Chester County should be double checked to make sure the event can go forward in person
- Events in public parks must conform with their rules on gatherings, and all local regulations must be maintained.
- Events on the congregation property must be cleared with Executive Team (but it’s not an ideal locale due to space and noise)
- If CDC or Chester County Health Department guidelines change to become more restrictive than these guidelines, follow their guidelines. We will monitor and update these guidelines as new information becomes available.
Please remember that even knowledgeable and well-intentioned people often slip up in terms of social distancing with friends they have not seen in a long time. It is important to remain vigilant through the remainder of the pandemic. Please also remember that no vaccine protects 100% against COVID-19. Even vaccinated people can become ill or transmit the disease, although the risk becomes substantially lower. By carefully following these guidelines, we are holding to our Unitarian Universalist values and protecting the safety of all.