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Faith-Based Organizations

As pillars of strength in communities, faith-based services have an important role in connecting the community by contributing to beneficial and safe social interactions. These services also have a role to play in the prevention of COVID-19 transmission.
Last updated: September 11, 2020 at 3:30 PM


All faith-based organizations must develop a COVID-19 safety plan in accordance with protocols set by WorkSafeBC.

A reminder to all: these measures are not forever, but they are very important for now, to protect the health of everyone in the community and in the province. There will be a time when we can all come together again. Until then, participating safely in services and activities is integral to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting those who are most vulnerable to complications of this disease.

Consider those who are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 illness people over the age of 65, with chronic health conditions, medical complexity or immune suppression Work to support these people to participate in services and activities remotely or virtually. WorkSafeBC has several suggestions for how to conduct services virtually on their website.

Basic Precautions

It is recommended that organizers of faith-based services follow the basic precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including:

If someone becomes ill

If someone develops symptoms of COVID-19, ask them to stay away from other people and encourage them to use the Ministry of Health's online self-assessment tool or call 8-1-1 to determine if they need further assessment for COVID-19 testing by a health-care provider or at a local collection centre.

At this time, only people with cold, influenza of COVID-19-like symptoms or those who are referred to testing by a health-care professional should be tested for COVID-19. Routine asymptomatic testing or temperature checking of members is not recommended in B.C.

Mass Gathering Limitations and Requirements to Collect Contact Information

The Provincial Health Officer’s Order on Gatherings and Events prohibits events (e.g., congregations of people) of more than 50 people in one space at one time, recognizing that many spaces will have to have less than 50 people in order to allow for physical distancing. 

The reason this order is in place is to ensure that public health has the capacity to identify and conduct contact tracing if a case (or cases) of COVID- 19 is detected within 14 days of the event.

Gatherings of more than 50 people make this critical public health measure to reduce spread difficult. In large buildings that have multiple spaces, as long as groups do not mix, a gathering less than 50 people in one space and a gathering less than 50 people in a separate space does not contravene the mass gathering order.

Faith-based services are considered “events” under the Provincial Health Officer’s Order on Gatherings and Events. Under this Order, the organizer must collect the first and last names and email addresses or phone numbers of all in attendance, and retain this information for 30 days, in case there is an exposure event, to facilitate contact tracing. If renting or using a space that is not owned by the organizer, the organizer must also provide this information to the owner who must retain this information for 30 days. 

Holding services safely

Maintain Physical Distancing

Continue to use virtual or online methods of holding a faith-based service. In person, a safe physical distance of two metres between people from different households must be maintained as much as possible. Encourage members to greet each other with a smile and a wave instead of direct person-to- person contact. Children who are not symptomatic can play together but should minimize physical contact. 

Reduce Higher Risk Activities

Although important to congregations, there are certain activities that are considered at high risk for COVID-19 transmission.

These activities should be reduced or altered during the course of the pandemic, and other virtual means should be explored to support members to partake in safer ways. It is acknowledged that different faiths have different practices, and faith-based organizations should turn towards their communities for specific guidance.

Examples of activities to reduce or alter include practices that involve person-to-person contact such as hands and faces, shared cups, vessels, or prayer mats. For necessary practices, ensure all sanitary and safety measures are taken; minimize physical contact whenever possible and encourage hand washing or the use of a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol after contact. For donations or offerings, consider designating an area that members can approach to donate or provide offerings, or consider an online method of this collection.

Singing and Choirs

Singing is a very important activity for many faith-based organizations. Although it is a higher risk activity, there are ways to make singing safer.

While not as forceful as coughing or sneezing, singing can produce large and small droplets that the virus lives in. While large droplets tend to fall to the ground fairly quickly, smaller droplets can be suspended in the air for up to nine minutes. These small droplets can be inhaled by others into the respiratory system. Having a group of people singing increases the number of these small droplets. In a poorly ventilated room, these droplets can fill a room quickly. The number of singers, the room size, the level of ventilation, and duration of singing all contribute to determining risk of transmission, as well as the transmission within the community.

How to make singing safer:

  • There may be no safe physical distance between singers if someone singing is infected with COVID-19; this is why it is very important for people to remain home if they are ill and to stay away from others;
  • For people who are well enough to attend services, maintain the two-metre distance between singers and between those who are singing and those who are enjoying the music;
  • Try singing outdoors wherever possible; indoors, consider the size of the room that the singing is taking place in, and whether or not the ventilation is adequate. Open windows or doors to help ventilate the room. Singing should be avoided in unventilated rooms;
  • Indoors, limit the number of people who are singing;
  • Consider breaking into smaller groups that sing together for shorter periods of time;
  • Consider having one soloist sing for the entire congregation, ensuring at least two metres between the singer and the audience;
  • Encourage humming along to recorded music or along with a soloist or small group of singers; and
  • Do not share microphones, music stands, or other equipment.

Food and Beverage Services

Follow the protocols and guidance for routine practices as set out in the Food Safety Act and the Food Premises Regulation.
  • Consider avoiding communal or buffet-style meals but identify an alternative, such as pre- packaged meals;
  • Ensure hand washing stations or hand sanitizer is placed close to where food and drinks are served;
  • Designate a person to serve food and drinks to others, and ensure that person washes their hands before serving;
  • Ensure physical distancing is maintained;
  • Clean condiments between uses if these items are shared; and,
  • For additional guidance on food safety, please refer to the BCCDC website.






 






SOURCE: Faith-Based Organizations ( )
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