The Vestry and the COVID Opening Committee are pleased to announce substantially lighter parish protocols, starting Sunday, February 13.
IN A NUTSHELL
- The Second Reading is restored.
- FOR NOW, use of the communion rail, reception of the chalice, physical contact at the Peace, and collecting offering row-by-row remain suspended. Every other pew remains closed to help maintain distancing.
- Congregational singing is restored, and full choir is invited to return when ready. Belt it out!
- FOR NOW, processions in and out remain suspended.
- In-person gatherings for Adult Formation and other in-person events are restored.
- We hope to restore Coffee Hour in the coming weeks.
- Masks and 6-foot distancing remain in effect.
On Thursday, Feb. 3, Milwaukee County stats indicated what most anticipated: Now that we’re well past the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, cases have dropped sharply, hospitalizations are down, and vaccinations are up. The only “red” category is test positivity, which I believe is skewed by the fact that people who have reason to believe they may be positive are more likely to be tested in the first place. According to the color-coded scale we adopted for the parish much earlier, we should be (and are) in the “yellow” zone at St Paul’s, and if either “yellow” went green, we’d be in the “green” zone at St Paul’s.
Meanwhile, a couple of trends that aren’t factored into our own model still seem true:
- Individual parishioners are doing a very good job of managing their own behavior and risk factors.
- A substantial majority of parishioners are vaccinated, and when they test positive, they are (to our knowledge) forthcoming with that information.
- Healthcare professionals report that we are transitioning into the “endemic” phase of COVID, such that reasonable protocols and vaccination are safe and effective for most of the population.
- We now know that the virus is mostly transmitted by air and not spread significantly by surface contact.
- We can reasonably expect another surge after the Independence Day holiday, and it likely will be less serious than the winter surge.
In response to these changing conditions, the COVID Opening Committee and Vestry have determined that effective Sunday, February 13:
- Continued requirement of respect, courtesy, and consideration for others by assuming that everyone else is observing conservative COVID protocols by maintaining 6-foot distance and masking in each other’s immediate presence unless you receive explicit consent to do otherwise.
- Continued requirement that any person experiencing COVID signs and symptoms refrain from entering the building.
- Masking is required in public spaces. N95 or KN95 masks recommended. Regular hand washing and use of hand sanitizer remains recommended.
- Continued request that everyone observe federal (CDC) and local (Milwaukee Public Health) guidance.
- Continued request that people not congregate unnecessarily in small spaces, including the sacristy.
- Continued request that anyone who attends a church event and tests positive for COVID report that information to the Interim Rector.
- Volunteer leaders of indoor gatherings, including all gatherings in the Community Room library or choir room, are invited to resume normal operation at their discretion and availability.
- The Opening Committee hopes to restore Coffee Hour after a longer pattern of low infection rates is established.
- Except as described above, COVID protocols in worship are lifted, including:
- Full musical worship elements, including congregational singing, are restored. Restoration of the full choir is at the discretion of the Director of Music and the choristers themselves.
- Two scripture readings, psalm, and Gospel reading are restored.
- The exchange of the Peace remains, for now, governed by the 6-foot distancing rule.
- The committee hopes to restore administration of the wine/blood of Christ and use of the communion rail at a future date.
- Ushers will continue, for now, to refrain from passing offering plates, in favor of the center aisle plate as currently in effect.
COVID is not “over.” Public health statistics will continue to be monitored, and earlier COVID may be restored in response to increased infections, hospitalizations, severe illnesses, or deaths.