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Updated April 6, 2020
The Rev. Hollie Tapley, the conference disaster response coordinator has shared this update.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” For many individuals, the coronavirus pandemic has caused thoughts like this to surface. As we begin the next two weeks along this journey, it is extremely important for us to Be the Church. Now is the time that people are beginning to feel like “the walls are closing in on them.” It’s tough being at home with the entire family and the pets! Mental toughness is going to get rough.
I encourage each of us to “be present” to as many as we can via Zoom, Facebook Live, phone calls, cards, letters, text messages, etc. We can do this by sticking together!
Below you will find the recommendations from the Great Plains Conference and the latest directions from the state of Kansas and state of Nebraska.
Share Your Stories
Ministry can be challenging under these kinds of conditions. Please share with us how you are reaching out to your community in worship and/or service by sending an email with your story, video and photos to David Burke, communications content specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about some of the creative ways churches are conducting worship and ministry.
Great Plains Conference Recommendations
The Great Plains Conference is urging churches to follow the first general rule presented by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement: Do no harm.
Until further notice, United Methodist churches in Kansas and Nebraska are asked to:
- Suspend all in-person worship and meetings.
- Connect by phone, video conferencing software or livestream.
- Churches may gather people necessary to conduct the livestream or to record the worship, but adhere to the 10-person limit, and allow for the safe social distancing guideline of at least 6 feet between participants at all times.
- Because of that 6-feet guideline, please do not assemble choirs or bands that cannon maintain that distance.
- Continue only those ministries that are feeding, clothing and otherwise caring for people in need while taking special precautions for safety.
- Go to office/church only for producing worship, checking the building, paying bills or processing contributions while maintaining appropriate safety protocols.
- Again, have as few people as possible in the building (preferably one at a time and definitely not more than 10).
Remember that if metro and rural areas do not take steps now, they will not slow the spread and will most likely experience critical conditions and that each time that we drive somewhere, there is possibility of accident and thus impact on our neighbors, first responders, and ourselves.
We need to support our neighbors, including businesses, so do so by being wise and safe!
Together we are Kansas/Nebraska proud. Together we are also Christian strong.
Nebraska: Statewide Instructions
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has issued statewide instructions.
“Now that we have seen community spread across the state, the state is applying directed health measures for all 93 counties until May 11,” Ricketts said.
This statewide decision:
- Imposes an enforceable, 10-person limit on public gatherings.
- Prohibits medical and dental elective surgeries and procedures.
- Requires schools (public, private, and parochial) to operate without students through May 31, 2020.
- Cancels all school-related extracurricular activities through May 31, 2020.
- Requires restaurants and bars to close their dining areas and move to takeout, delivery, and/or curbside service only.
- Requires individuals to home quarantine for at least 14 days if:
- They have tested positive for COVID-19.
- They have a fever of 100.4° F or above
- They have experienced sudden onset of a cough and/or shortness of breath
- They reside or have resided with individuals who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or have the above symptoms.
- NOTE: The quarantine requirement excludes those individuals with seasonal allergies, COPD, or other diagnoses that may produce respiratory symptoms. Additionally, the directive doesn’t apply to patients who have an alternative non-COVID-19 diagnosis from a healthcare provider. These patients should follow the treatment and guidance provided by their healthcare provider for such conditions.
- Some individuals in home quarantine may not experience the onset of symptoms until the latter half of their 14-day quarantine period. In this case, the length of their quarantine may exceed 14 days. Individuals should remain in quarantine until 7 days have passed since onset of symptoms, symptoms have improved, and they have been fever-free for at least 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
- NOTE: See the DHM for additional direction on household members living with those in quarantine.
- The DHM’s limitation on public gatherings does not apply to:
- Retail or grocery stores where people should maintain six feet of distance from one another.
- Daycares that may be operated at a school per the Governor’s executive order regarding childcare, which you can access by clicking here.
- Other locations detailed in the DHM.
On April 2, Gov. Ricketts’ office released “Coronavirus – COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Faith-Based Communities."
- The State has released new guidance today allowing churches to host drive-in services.
- Nothing should be handed out to car passengers—or transferred between vehicles—before, during, or after the service.
- For example, do not circulate an offering plate or the Eucharist or communion.
- Email out your program, bulletin, and song lyrics to participants ahead of time.
How can I hold a religious ceremony and still adhere to social distancing and crowd sizes?
- Consider a “drive-in” service. Set up an outdoor space for attendees to drive up in their cars and participate in the service from their cars.
- Email out the bulletin and song lyrics ahead of time.
- Do not pass the offering plate, communion, or anything else from car to car.
(See note below from Hollie Tapley.)
- Livestream small group and parish meetings.
- Continue recurring parish meetings through a conference call or video calls
You can see the entire document here: http://dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/COVID-19-Faith-Based-Communities-FAQ.pdf
Note from Hollie Tapley: In a call with Gov’s Ricketts’ office, Monday, April 6, the “drive-in worship” option was discussed. Conversation is taking place about reversing this option, and only allowing livestream, Facebook Live, TV, etc. The Governor's Office realizes this is Holy Week, yet the closing word was pretty affirming that “drive-in worship” will not be allowed. I do not know that 100%, but that was the takeaway from the call. — Rev. Hollie Tapley
Nebraska Unemployment Insurance Information
Gov. Pete Ricketts announced March 30 that Nebraska has extended statewide social distancing restrictions through April 30. In addition to these social distancing restrictions, 30 counties are currently covered by a Directed Health Measure.
Some helpful information to pass on to your congregation:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) — Allows unemployment benefits to individuals who have exhausted all other unemployment benefits, and those not eligible for other unemployment benefits, including workers who are self-employed and independent contractors. The minimum PUA weekly payment will be $174 and top out at $440.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) — This emergency increase in Unemployment Insurance Benefits adds $600 per week in federal benefits to the unemployment benefit amount for COVID-19 unemployment claims, including PUA claims.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – Allows 13 weeks of federally funded benefits to be added to the end of the normal 26 weeks of benefits.
- Short Time Compensation Programs (also known as Work Share) – Provides federal funding of Short-Time Compensation, a program that allows businesses to uniformly reduce their teammates’ hours while the workers receive a partial unemployment benefit.
Kansas: Guidance for Church Services
A committee of the Kansas Legislature has overturned an executive order from Gov. Laura Kelly. The vote by the Legislative Coordinating Council, in effect, allows for large groups to gather for churches and funerals. The conference, however, recommends United Methodist churches in the state to follow the directions from the governor's order because of the emphasis it places on caution and safety of parishioners.
The governor's executive order had declared that all public or private mass gatherings were prohibited in the state of Kansas. Some of the selective language of the Executive Order 20-18 included the prohibition of gatherings of more than 10 congregants or parishioners in the same building or confined or enclosed space, including churches.
However, the number of individuals such as preachers, readers, choir or musical performers, or liturgists assisting in worship were allowed to exceed the 10-person limit as long as those participants followed appropriate safety protocols, including a 6-foot distance between individuals and other directives regarding social distancing, hygiene and other efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
Regarding funerals and memorial services, the 10-person limit in the governor's order did not apply to employees or military service members gathered to conduct such a service. However, the number of attendees, including family and friends, were not exceed the 10-person limit.
Read the full executive order.
Other guidelines previously shared by Gov. Kelly included:
- Churches should use online, radio, and other telecommunications tools wherever possible to conduct services or other church operations without congregating in-person.
- If a church is unable to use online, radio, or other telecommunications tools, a church conducting in-person services or operations must comply with the following requirements, which by this guidance are hereby determined not to significantly disrupt church services:
- Maintain a six-foot distance between individuals.
- Disinfect all doorknobs and other commonly touched surfaces both before a service begins and again before the service ends.
- Refrain from passing offering plates, communion trays, or other implements that may be repeatedly touched.
Additionally, churches are expected to comply with any local “mass gathering” prohibition that is more restrictive than Executive Order 20-14.
Executive Order 20-14 superseded less restrictive local “mass gathering” executive orders but did not supersede more restrictive local “mass gathering” orders. The provisions of any local orders that imposed more restrictive “mass gathering” prohibitions were still in effect and were to be followed by churches unless the local order exempted churches from its prohibitions.
Additionally, Executive Order 20-14 itself required individuals attending religious services to “engage in appropriate social distancing.” The phrase “appropriate social distancing” included following local “mass gathering” or other public health orders that were not superseded by a state executive order.
Some churches are considering drive-in church for Sunday. Please consult your local Public Health Department for up-to-date rules and regulations. The following is the most up-to-date information we have for drive-in or parking lot services.
- Families stay in their own cars
- With an FM receiver in use, car windows must stay up, and vehicles can be parked in normal spaces.
- If windows are to be down, then vehicles must be parked 6 feet apart.
- For Nebraska, the 10 person limitation is still in effect..
- For Kansas, there is no limit based on the order from Gov. Laura Kelly, other than the 6-feet rule.
- Clergy and other worship leaders also must abide by the 6 feet rule.
- One county is requiring clergy and other worship participants to stay inside the house of worship and broadcast that way.
- Three other counties are allowing clergy and worship leaders to stay outside, yet no contact is allowed with individuals who attend.
People at risk for serious illness from COVID-19
Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness:
- Older adults
- Individuals who have serious chronic medical conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- lung disease
If a COVID-19 outbreak happens in your community, it could last for a long time. (An outbreak is when a large number of people suddenly get sick.) Depending on how severe the outbreak is, public health officials may recommend community actions to reduce people’s risk of being exposed to COVID-19. These actions can slow the spread and reduce the impact of disease.
If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.
What to do if you get sick
The CDC recommends the following steps:
- Stay home and call your healthcare provider and let them know about your symptoms. Tell them you have or may have been exposed to COVID-19 and if you have:
- Fever of 100.4 or higher
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Follow your healthcare providers recommendations.
- Stay home, as advised by your healthcare provider.
- Avoid public areas. Do not go to work, school or public areas.
Coronavirus and other infectious diseases
The Center for Disease Control offers these
best practices for prevention of infectious diseases:
How It Spreads
Person to Person
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet), as a person coughs or sneezes.
Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects.
- A person can become infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touch their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Practice the 6 ft rule of distance between you and the sick individual.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or by placing your bent elbow over your mouth and nose. Promptly discard the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a spray such as Lysol or Clorox. The wipes may be used with attention to a complete cleaning of the area.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Face masks should be worn by people who show symptoms of COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath.
- Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something in a public place.
How it spreads
Person to Person
- Between people who are in close contact with one another, as a person coughs or sneezes.
Contact with infected surfaces or objects
- A person can become infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touch their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
Hand Sanitizer Recipe
- 3/4 cup of isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (99%)
- 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel (to keep your hands smooth and to counteract the harshness of alcohol)
- 10 drops of essential oil, such as lavender oil, or you can use lemon juice instead.
- Pour all ingredients into a bowl, ideally one with a pouring spout like a glass measuring container.
- Mix with a spoon and then beat with a whisk to turn the sanitizer into a gel.
- Pour the ingredients into an empty bottle for easy use, and label it “hand sanitizer.”