Thursday, March 12 2020 by Matt Horan
Dear Members and Friends of Heritage United Methodist,
As you know, your lay and staff leaders are monitoring the situation regarding the spread of COVID-19, or “coronavirus” in the Tampa Bay Area. I’m writing to you to convey some information we’ve received from the Florida Conference Office, and to inform you about steps we’re taking at Heritage to maintain an environment in which we can all stay as healthy as possible.
The current understanding of how the virus that causes coronavirus spreads is largely based on what is known about similar viruses. COVID-19 is a new disease and there is more to learn about how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States, but here are the steps that we are advising anyone who is a part of the Heritage United Methodist community.
How does it Spread?
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
- It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
How easily does the virus spread?
Viruses spread from person-to-person can vary; some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in some affected communities. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
Recommendations From the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Steps Being Taken at Heritage
While we continue to monitor the spread of the virus and may take additional steps or adjust those we’re currently taking. However, these are the current steps we’re taking at Heritage until further notice.
- We’ve ordered offering boxes to be stationed around our worship spaces, and will not be passing around offering plates or bags during worship.
- We have ordered hand sanitizer stations to be placed around the buildings, though as you can imagine, there are many orders being placed for these, so they may take some time to arrive.
- We will not be including the greeting time as an element in worship.
- For Communion Sundays (first Sunday of the month), we will be offering communion to whomever would like to receive it in the Chapel. We will take every possible precaution to prepare it using healthy, sanitary processes. It will be available all morning, using chopped up pieces of bread and juice in little cups (like we do in the 9am traditional service.) There will be no liturgy or service–you will simply step forward and take the bread and juice yourself from a tray in front of the chapel. You’re welcome to remain in the chapel and kneel or sit for some quiet reflection time if you like, or to simply receive it and go. There will not be communion served as an element in the worship service.
- Congregational Care teams will be contacting nursing home residents by phone, rather than visiting in person. As the elderly are most susceptible to contracting and being seriously harmed by this illness, it will be best that we not repeatedly send people into these special care facilities and put the residents even more at risk. If you’d like to help make up for this reduced personal contact by joining in to make calls or send cards to those unable to attend worship in person anymore, please contact our Director of Congregational Care, Pastor Curtis Paige, to volunteer and help encourage the faithful disciples who went before us and created the church of Jesus Christ for us to inherit!
I’m aware that these steps will be disruptions in the worship experience that we’ve grown to value each Sunday. Further, I’m aware that these steps may change as we learn more about the virus, and as we learn from our experience. For these reasons, I do ask for your grace and patience as your lay and staff leaders and volunteers get up to speed on how to serve well in the midst of this season that requires some extra vigilance to keep us all healthy and safe.
If you have any questions about our response to the coronavirus, please don’t hesitate to reply or call us at 727-796-1329.
Please remember that many countries around the world do not have the healthcare resources that we do in the United States, so give thanks for what we have, and lift those in harm’s way up in prayer!
Sincerely,Print This Post