Covid-19 Phased Reopening Plan – Update March 9 & 16, 2021

UPDATES of March 9 and 16, 2021

The COVID-19 Task Force recommended to the Congregation Council we continue to worship together online and outdoors and continue to refrain from gathering for indoor in-person worship at this time.

March 16, 2021 – The Congregation Council Approved this Recommendation at Its March Meeting:

  • Public health experts are recommending that churches avoid indoor in-person gatherings until we have reached 70-80% herd immunity through vaccinations and infections. Numbers are going down but the CDC is encouraging caution especially as we don’t yet know what is happening with variants. Dr. Ulysses Burley III, Faith Community Engagement Ambassador for the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) gave this recommendation when he presented on the topic of COVID: Public Health and the Church for the three synods of Iowa on January 23, 2021. https://www.wisynod.org/news/covid-public-health-and-the-church
  • The CDC is recommending that when you are fully vaccinated, you should still “take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html
  • It is safer for some congregations to have small indoor in-person gatherings because they have large buildings. Our sanctuary makes this difficult as it is quite compact.
  • It is interesting to note that while some congregations are returning to some form of indoor in-person gathering, many congregants are not. Many people are choosing to continue worshipping online. That is what most Good Shepherd members are indicating they will continue to do. Given that, we want to direct our resources toward providing excellent online worship.
  • If it was going to be another year or two until many people were vaccinated, we might move ahead with limited indoor in-person gatherings. However, since we are learning that vaccines will be available for all adults by summer, we recommend staying the course and continuing to worship online and outdoors until more people have been vaccinated and until we learn more about what is happening with variants.

March 9, 2021 – The COVID-19 Task Force Approved:

  • Allowing vaccinated people to come into the sanctuary to record readings and prayers for Sunday morning. We will still have just one unmasked person in the space at a time.
  • We will have a very small baptism indoors on April 3.
  • We will have an outdoor Confirmation service at the Easter Vigil bonfire on April 3 at 7:00 p.m. The sanctuary will be a back-up location for this if weather prevents us from being outside. The indoor service will be limited to 30 people.
  • We will have the sanctuary available for silent prayer on Good Friday from 1:00-8:00 p.m. We will have a sign outside the door limiting the number to 10 people at a time.. We will do an outdoor Stations of the Cross. People can end their time inside the sanctuary. They can also just come into the sanctuary if they don’t want to do the Stations. Masks and distancing will be required.
  • After Easter we will offer indoor Confirmation classes for four students with Pastor Amy and another adult. We will meet in the Fellowship Hall which has great air exchange. Masks and distancing required.

The Task Force will meet again the week of April 12 to consider other aspects of the COVID response.

UPDATE of January 5, 2021:

The COVID-19 Task Force and Congregation Council have approved limited in person communion services in the building if the state of IA and Winneshiek County are out of the red zone on the global pandemic tracker. That has not happened since the plan was approved so we continue to avoid in-person gatherings in the building. Please see the WORSHIP tab for information on how to join YouTube worship services, Zoom communion gatherings and short outdoor communion services.

Good Shepherd COVID-19 Phased Reopening Plan – September 4, 2020

Due to the surge in COVID-19 in Winneshiek County and the state of Iowa, the Congregation Council has determined that we are back to Phase I of the phased reopening plan. However, the council has revised the plan to allow for consideration of limited outdoor worship in Phase I. 

Prepared by the COVID-19 Task Force

In all situations, we want to err on the side of love for our neighbor and know that change will be inevitable. Patience, grace, and flexibility will be necessary as we strive to make the most appropriate decisions for the people of God in our place at this time. This plan is subject to change as we learn more about the virus and how it is impacting communities. 

As we reopen, we will carefully consider:

  • Legally binding orders
  • The safety of the community and congregation
  • Recommendations from health officials
  • Recommendations from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 
  • Insurer loss-control recommendations and our insurance policy
  • Following state guidelines and federal guidelines for a four-phased approach to opening 
  • Of particular note are the criteria for moving from strict physical distancing (Phase I) to a staged reopening (Phase II). These four gating criteria need to be met:
  1. The number of new cases has declined in the state for at least 14 days (we will also pay attention to Winneshiek County numbers and to trends in Wisconsin and Minnesota).
  2. Rapid diagnostic testing capacity is sufficient to test, at minimum, all people with COVID-19 symptoms, including mild cases, as well as their close contacts and those in essential roles.
  3. The health care system is able to safely care for all patients, including providing appropriate personal protective equipment for health care workers.
  4. There is sufficient public health capacity to conduct contact tracing for all new cases and their close contacts.

Our “phased” approach will likely not be a linear one; there may be times of gradual reopening as infections decrease, followed by restrictions if new waves of infections emerge.

Although efforts will be made to make all users aware of the recommendations in this document, the COVID-19 Task Force recognizes that compliance with the recommendations may vary for different reasons such as users having different levels of understanding and recollection of the recommendations, or because the facts of any given situation might warrant varying from the recommendations. Although efforts will be made to keep this document current, knowledge and best practices regarding virus response change too rapidly for this document to consistently reflect the current state of knowledge. This document may be amended by either the COVID-19 Task Force or the Congregation Council.

Phase I 

  • There will be no  in person worship services in the building.
  • We will consider the option of offering outdoor worship services, including funerals and weddings, with 100 or fewer people. Masks and physical distancing measures are required. Size exceptions may be considered for family only funerals. No rain location will be provided. Restrooms will be available on a limited basis. All requests need to be approved by the Congregation Council.
  • Most of the resources for worship will be focused on online worship in order to be an inclusive community.
  •  Education activities, small groups, and meetings will happen online or outside (masks required if outside.)
  • Most ministry staff will work from home.
  • The office will be staffed by the Administrative Assistant with diligent cleaning and sanitizing of utilized spaces
  • The building will be closed except for essential staff/volunteers and for essential business by appointment
  • Kinderhaus will meet in the east end of the building following their safety protocols.
  • Pastors will provide pastoral care via phone, Zoom, email and cards, outdoor visits or masked indoor visits if necessary. Pastors will visit nursing homes and hospitals, if allowed, following their visitation restrictions.

We are in the process of revising the other phases at this time as the situation unfolds.