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Updating COVID-19 protocols in response to omicron

With new spikes in COVID-19 cases since the emergence of the omicron variant, it may be time for churches to update their safety protocols.

Stephen Saucerman receives a COVID-19 vaccination from volunteer nurse Jackie Smith, RN, at Community United Methodist Church in Vincennes, Ind. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.
Stephen Saucerman receives a COVID-19 vaccination from volunteer nurse Jackie Smith, RN, at Community United Methodist Church in Vincennes, Ind. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

With the new omicron variant has come record spikes in new cases of COVID-19, leaving hospitals and health care workers increasingly strained. The omicron variant is more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain and has a higher chance of creating breakthrough cases among the vaccinated. Vaccines, however, remain the best defense against severe illness and the CDC encourages those who able and eligible for original doses and boosters to receive their vaccinations as soon as possible.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons are highly encouraged to wear masks during indoor gatherings while continuing to wash their hands frequently and avoid tight and poorly ventilated areas. Those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been knowingly exposed to someone with the disease should get tested and self-quarantine accordingly. For more comprehensive guidelines please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Congregations may also need to take greater precautions to protect their members and guests. The CDC has guidelines for indoor activities and public gatherings that may help churches adapt their own practices. Churches should also check their annual conference’s website to see if it has updated its guidelines or recommendations for worship and other church activities.

All church members should wear masks and social distance when worshiping indoors. Some congregations may decide to return to digital worship or offer hybrid experiences to ensure those unable to or uncomfortable with worshiping in-person continue to feel included. Phone ministries may be another way to connect with members less comfortable worshipping via computer/smart device. Churches might also send care packages to members and families self-quarantining at home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than most of us could have imagined and upended ministries everywhere. Even so, United Methodists remain committed to making disciples and continue to respond to the unique challenges of COVID in innovative ways.