COVID-19 vaccine

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Religious institution guidance

Religious institution guidance

The following is intended as a plain-language summary of rules during the COVID-19 emergency and does not replace the need to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.


Protections Needed

Masks

  • Require congregants/attendees to wear masks when on site except only:
    • As necessary to eat or drink while seated in assigned seats.
    • For children under age 2.
  • Ensure congregants are wearing masks while singing.
  • Provide masks for staff including the leader or celebrant and require them to mask when on site except only:
    • As necessary for staff to eat or drink during break times. Staff should be seated at least 6 feet from others when taking off their mask.
  • For choir performances, ensure singers remain masked.

Barriers

  • Place barriers or distance markers around stage, altar, or presentation area to keep congregants more than 6 feet away.

Isolate

  • Screen staff for symptoms before every shift and prevent them from remaining on site if they have cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, or new loss of taste or smell.
  • It is not necessary to conduct onsite temperature measurement for staff or visitors. If you measure temperatures, use a no-touch thermometer, and do not allow anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher to remain onsite.
  • Have sick leave policies in place so that employees excluded from the workplace do not lose earnings
  • If an employee develops COVID-19 infection or has a positive test, businesses and other organizations must take additional precautions to stop the virus from spreading further.

Distance

  • Use signage to encourage individuals/groups to space themselves at least 6 feet from other groups.
  • Use floor decals or other visual cues to encourage spacing of at least 6 feet between attendees.
  • Use signage or floor markings to have one-way aisles or otherwise direct attendees to follow certain pathways for entering and exiting the service.
  • Direct row by row exiting after the service.
  • Rope off rows of chairs or pews so that congregants can only sit in every 3rd row and 6 feet away from other groups.
  • For gatherings where congregants pray on mats, separate mats by at least 6 feet or use other visual cues to congregants to separate.
  • Congregants should be encouraged to proceed to their seats and remain there throughout the service.
  • Any performances must follow the Indoor live theater, music venue, and movie theater guidance.

Reduce crowds

  • Block off rows and seats to maintain a 6-foot distance between groups.
  • Indoor events and gatherings are limited to 25% of maximum occupancy regardless of venue size or 33 persons per 1,000 square feet, whichever is least restrictive.
    • If attendees are exclusively seated for the duration of the event in assigned seats, up to 6 people may be seated together. Each group should be seated at least 6 feet from any neighboring group.
    • Food may be served at indoor services if attendees are seated in assigned seats. No more than 75 people may attend. Follow Catered events, weddings & celebrations guidance.
  • Outdoor events and gatherings are limited to 50% of maximum occupancy or 33 persons per 1,000 square feet, whichever is least restrictive.
  • Consider having people sign up for in-person services to prevent overcrowding or turning congregants away.
  • Continue to offer remote service options, especially for those at high risk and to allow for greater physical distancing of in-person attendees.
  • If possible, offer staggered service times to increase physical distancing.
  • Avoid unplanned communal gatherings pre- or post-service.

Handwashing

  • Place handwashing stations or hand sanitizer at entry and outside communal bathrooms for all staff and congregants with prominent signage promoting use.
  • Give staff hourly handwashing breaks.

Clean

  • Wipe down high-touch surfaces with disinfectant regularly. See CDC guidance for details.

Ventilation

  • If possible, increase ventilation in the building by either:
    • Opening windows and/or doors on opposite sides of the building and using fans to blow outside air through the building OR
    • Optimizing ventilation provided by the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system by:
      • Having the HVAC system checked to assure that it is working properly. If it can be adjusted, the system should be set to provide at least 6 air exchanges per hour.
      • Maximizing the amount of outside air circulated by the system.
      • Installing filters with minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) of 13, or the highest compatible with the filter rack.
      • Checking that the external air inlet duct is not blocked and that it is at least 15 feet from people.

Communicate

  • Educate staff and congregants about symptoms and prevention of COVID-19.
  • Encourage attendees to download and turn on the PA exposure notification app COVID Alert PA to help with contact tracing.
  • Ask people who are sick or who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 within the past 10 days to not enter, stay home, and follow CDC quarantine guidelines.  If you do not have any symptoms, you may end your quarantine period after:
    • Day 10 without testing OR,
    • Day 7 after receiving a negative test result (lab-based or rapid) after day 5.
  • Staff who have been fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine when exposed to someone with COVID-19 if they meet the following criteria:
    • They are fully vaccinated, and it’s been at least 2 weeks after the last dose in the vaccine series.
    • They have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.
  • Vaccination is not 100% effective.
    • Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should get tested.
    • Anyone who is positive for COVID-19 must isolate according to CDC guidelines.
    • After vaccination you must still wear a mask, keep your distance, and avoid crowds.
  • Post prominent signs at entrances and in staff break rooms (if applicable):
    • Encouraging people to cover coughs or sneezes.
    • Mandating physical distancing of at least 6 feet.
    • Mandating that all staff and congregants wear masks.

Other

  • Do not share items such as communion cups.
  • Temporarily suspend practices that involve passing items from hand to hand or from hand to mouth.
  • Consider alternatives to passing plate for donations (e.g. fixed donation box near entrance) to avoid passing items from hand to hand.
  • If the institution offers childcare during services, follow Childcare and early childhood education centers guidance.

Note: Organizations that also maintain offices for operations must adhere to Office guidance in their offices.

See also:


  • Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive updates to your phone.
  • Call (800) 722-7112 to speak to a health care professional on the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline.

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