Special to Iredell Free News
The Iredell County Health Department has recently seen new cases of COVID-19 that are linked to places of worship.
To avoid the continued spread of the virus during worship services, the health department is encouraging residents to take preventative measures as they return to in-person worship services.
Places of worship should create and implement a plan to minimize the opportunity for COVID-19 spread. Each church member should also do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following the recommendations found in the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS) Guidance for Places of Worship and Religious Services.
Protect Yourself & Others
One of the most important prevention measures is practicing social distancing. This is the practice of keeping space between yourself and other people. When attending worship services, stay at least six feet from other people who don’t live in your home. Don’t gather in groups. Seating could be limited to every other row or spaced accordingly. Members of the choir or music ensemble should maintain a distance of six feet from each other as well.
NCDHHS Guidance suggests that places of worship limit the number of frequently touched objects, such as hymnals, and avoid serving from common dishes. A stationary collection box is safer than one that is passed through the congregation.
It is also strongly recommended that staff and congregants wear cloth face coverings when attending services. A cloth face covering protects other people from your germs. Many people are testing positive for COVID-19 without having any symptoms. That’s why all people should wear a cloth face covering.
Hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds continues to be an important preventative measure. Hand sanitizer should be readily available throughout the church. It should be alcohol-based (at least 60% alcohol) and provided at entrances and exits and near high-touch areas.
Staff and congregants should stay home and not attend service if they have any symptoms like fever, cough or shortness of breath. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 infection, you should not leave your home until approved by your medical provider or the health department. If you are on home quarantine for 14 days because you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 infection, you should not attend in-person worship services.
Screening individuals before they enter place of worship will ensure that individuals who are attending worship service are currently healthy and not experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms. Asking a few simple questions and taking the temperature of individuals entering is a great step in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Here are the questions that should be asked prior to entering the worship facility:
• Have you had close contact (within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes) in the last 14 days with someone
diagnosed with COVID-19, or has any health department or health care provider been in contact with
you and advised you to quarantine?
• Have you experienced any of the following symptoms in the last 72 hours:
o Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
o New cough
o New loss of taste of smell
• Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19?
If anyone responds “yes” to any of the above questions, has symptoms, or has been exposed to COVID-19 they should go home, stay away from other people, and call their doctor.
Advice for High-Risk Individuals
If you are a senior citizen or have an underlying health condition, you are at high risk for severe disease. Consider asking your Pastor to video the service for you. This allows you to view the service from the safety of your home.
Please make sure that adequate planning has been done before the church doors open again. You don’t want to impact the lives, health and safety of others. Take personal responsibility for keeping others safe.
For general information from the Iredell County Health Department about COVID-19, please https://www.co.iredell.nc.us/1383/Coronavirus-COVID-19