Westminster’s Updated Covid Response Plan

August 29, 2022

The Responsible Building Use Task Force met twice in August to review Westminster Presbyterian Church’s current COVID-19 Response Plan and to make adjustments based on the most current Covid data and research. The response plan was updated in April, but in the past four months Covid transmissions rates have decreased and vaccinations are now available to ages six months and older. Therefore, the task force has updated the response plan, changing the previously called Covid “prevention measures” to “mitigation measures” to indicate the COVID-19 virus remains with us and now we must focus on adapting as necessary to mitigate its spread.

Read Westminster’s Living With COVID-19 Response (pdf)

Westminster’s Response Plan continues to call for its mitigation measures to be added and removed in response to the community level risks identified using the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Community Risk Levels Model. However, the mitigation measures are now divided into two categories (low and medium community risk, and high community risk) rather than the previous three categories (low, medium, and high). In addition, as a result of vaccination availability for young children, the task force lessened the mitigation measures in the low/medium category.

Provided Hennepin and Ramsey counties remain in their current low- to medium-risk levels, beginning September 11 the following mitigation measures will go into effect:

  • Vaccinations and up-to-date boosters are strongly encouraged, but proof of vaccination is not required at Westminster except for certain staff and volunteer roles.
  • Masks are welcomed, but not required, including when singing.
  • Handwashing and sanitizing are encouraged, and hand sanitizing stations will be provided.
  • Communion plates will be used with pre-packaged, individual servings available.
  • Offering plates will be passed.
  • Food service will follow safe food handling procedures and hand sanitizing stations will be provided.

If the Covid community-risk level in Hennepin and/or Ramsey counties increases to the high category according to the CDC, then additional mitigation measures will go into effect, which can be read in Westminster’s updated Covid Response Plan (pdf).

 

 

 

Westminster Returns to Low-Risk Covid Protocols; Mask-Optional Worship to Begin on September 11

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hennepin and Ramsey counties are now in the low level for community transmission of COVID-19. As a result, Westminster will move our Covid protocols to the low-risk level. Beginning Wednesday, August 10, masks are optional except during Sunday Worship and whenever children under 5 years old are expected to be present.

This summer children under 5 years old have been approved and started to receive their Covid vaccinations. Considering this, Westminster’s Responsible Building Use Team has decided that if Hennepin and Ramsey counties remain in the low-risk category for Covid, beginning September 11 Westminster will move to mask-optional during worship for those who are vaccinated. 

Until then, the following protocols will be followed for the low-risk level:

  1. In order to protect children under five who are only starting to be vaccinated, masks will be required in any WPC space where under-fives are expected to be present, including Sunday morning worship. Signs will be posted outside any room on Sunday that is mask optional (such as Coffee Hour in Westminster Hall, Adult Ed, Social Justice Forum, etc.), so those entering can make their own decisions.
  2. Food and beverage may be served indoors at any event where under-fives are not present, using existing industry safety standards for food and beverage WPC has always followed.
  3. Room capacity limits will be lifted except in spaces where under-fives are expected to be present, when it will be 50% of capacity.
  4. Communion will be offered in the pews or by intinction with pre-packaged individual servings also available.
  5. Singing will continue and masks will be required where under-fives are expected to be present, including Sunday morning worship. The choir will also continue to wear masks during Sunday worship.
  6. Offering plates may be passed in the pews.

To see the complete plan and list of protocols, read the plan online.

Returning to Medium-risk Level Covid Protocols

As the COVID-19 infection rate in Hennepin County increases, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has moved the county from a low- to medium-risk level. As a result, Westminster’s Covid protocols will also move from a low- to medium-risk level, effective Monday, July 18.

This spring, the Responsible Building Use Task Force revised Westminster’s Covid response plan and Session approved the revised plan. The new plan includes a risk assessment process tied to the CDC’s risk levels. In addition, the revised plan has a three-column grid of Covid prevention measures based on risk level—low, medium, high.

At the medium-risk level, the following protocol changes will take effect:

  • Masks will be required inside the building at all times.
  • Capacity limits will be 600 allowed in the sanctuary and 50% capacity in all other rooms.
  • Social distancing is required.
  • Communion will be pre-packaged, individual servings.
  • No self-serve food service and all tableware will be disposable/compostable; 50% table capacity; and masks should be worn when not eating/drinking.
  • Singing continues with masks.

To see the complete plan and list of protocols, read the plan online.

Westminster Moves to Low-risk Level for Covid Protocols

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hennepin and Ramsey counties are now in the low level for community transmission of COVID-19. As a result, Westminster will move our Covid protocols to the low-risk level. Beginning Tuesday, June 28, masks are optional except during Sunday Worship and whenever children under 5 years old are expected to be present.

The following protocols will be followed for the low-risk level:

  1. In order to protect children under five who are only starting to be vaccinated, masks will be required in any WPC space where under-fives are expected to be present, including Sunday morning worship. Signs will be posted outside any room on Sunday that is mask optional (such as Coffee Hour in Westminster Hall, Adult Ed, Social Justice Forum, etc.), so those entering can make their own decisions.
  2. Food and beverage may be served indoors at any event where under-fives are not present, using existing industry safety standards for food and beverage WPC has always followed.
  3. Room capacity limits will be lifted except in spaces where under-fives are expected to be present, when it will be 50% of capacity.
  4. Communion will be offered in the pews or by intinction with pre-packaged individual servings also available.
  5. Singing will continue and masks will be required where under-fives are expected to be present, including Sunday morning worship. The choir will also continue to wear masks during Sunday worship.
  6. Offering plates may be passed in the pews.

To see the complete plan and list of protocols, read the plan online.

Westminster Returns to Medium-Risk Covid Protocols

As the COVID-19 infection rate in Hennepin County increases, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has moved the county from a low- to medium-risk level. As a result, Westminster’s Covid protocols will also move from a low- to medium-risk level.

Last month, the Responsible Building Use Task Force revised Westminster’s Covid response plan and Session approved the revised plan. The new plan includes a risk assessment process tied to the CDC’s risk levels. In addition, the revised plan has a three-column grid of Covid prevention measures based on risk level—low, medium, high.

At the medium-risk level, the following protocol changes will take effect on Monday, June 20:

  • Masks will be required inside the building at all times.
  • Capacity limits will be 600 allowed in the sanctuary and 50% capacity in all other rooms.
  • Social distancing is required.
  • Communion will be pre-packaged, individual servings.
  • No self-serve food service and all tableware will be disposable/compostable; 50% table capacity; and masks should be worn when not eating/drinking.
  • Singing continues with masks.

To see the complete plan and list of protocols, read the plan online.

Changes in Westminster’s Covid Protocols

Since the start of the pandemic, the goal of the Responsible Building Use Task Force has been to keep staff, church members, and visitors safe. Safety continues to be the priority of Westminster’s Covid protocols. Early in the pandemic the focus was on protecting elders, given their high vulnerability. Now the emphasis has shifted to children under five who cannot yet be vaccinated and have been more susceptible to contracting recent Covid variants.

The measures taken at Westminster to lower the risk of transmission of Covid are based on local, CDC-determined risk levels, which are issued weekly. Hennepin and Ramsey counties have returned to a Low Risk level, which means the following protocols will return on Monday, June 6:

  1. In order to protect children under five who cannot yet be vaccinated, masks will be required in any WPC space where under-fives are expected to be present, including Sunday morning worship. Signs will be posted outside any room on Sunday that is mask optional, so those entering can make their own decisions. During the 10:30 service we will provide a mask-optional space where people can worship via the livestream.
  2. Food and beverage may be served indoors at any event where under-fives are not present, using existing industry safety standards for food and beverage WPC has always followed.
  3. Room capacity limits will be lifted except in spaces where under-fives are expected to be present, when it will be 50% of capacity.
  4. Communion may be offered in the pews or by intinction with pre-packaged individual servings also available.
  5. Singing will continue and masks will be required where under-fives are expected be present, including Sunday morning worship.The choir will also continue to wear masks during Sunday worship.
  6. Offering plates may be passed in the pews.

To see the complete plan and list of protocols, read the plan online.

Westminster Moving to Medium Covid Risk Level Protocols

As the COVID-19 infection rate in Hennepin County increases, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has moved the county from a low- to medium-risk level. As a result, Westminster’s Covid protocols will also move from a low- to medium-risk level.

Last month, the Responsible Building Use Task Force revised Westminster’s Covid response plan and Session approved the revised plan. The new plan includes a risk assessment process tied to the CDC’s risk levels. In addition, the revised plan has a three-column grid of Covid prevention measures based on risk level—low, medium, high.

At the medium-risk level, the following protocol changes will take effect on Monday, May 16:

  • Masks will be required inside the building at all times.
  • Capacity limits will be 600 allowed in the sanctuary and 50% capacity in all other rooms.
  • Social distancing is required.
  • Communion will be pre-packaged, individual servings.
  • No self-serve food service and all tableware will be disposable/compostable; 50% table capacity; and masks should be worn when not eating/drinking.
  • Singing continues with masks.

To see the complete plan and list of protocols, read the plan online.

Long-Term Covid Response Plan

Westminster’s Living With COVID-19 Response

April 2022

When the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, the Session of Westminster appointed the Responsible Building Use Task Force to advise the Westminster community on how to reopen our building as much as possible while minimizing health risks. In August 2020, the task force developed and Session approved the plan How We Will Reopen Westminster’s Building (pdf) to guide our building reopening actions. The plan was updated in May 2021. Now, the Task Force has developed a new, longer-term plan – Westminster’s Living With COVID-19 Response (pdf)

This new plan recognizes that while the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be improving, the COVID-19 virus will likely remain with us long term. We know the COVID-19 pandemic may pass as a pandemic, not quickly, and possibly with more infection surges. However, we see a future where the COVID-19 virus remains with us in a hopefully less virulent, less widespread, and less life and society altering way. That is, COVID-19 will likely join influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and other respiratory viruses as a circulating respiratory virus that we must live with long term. To deal with this new reality where COVID-19 remains a threat, Westminster will continue to use our building responsibly, and we will keep a spectrum of prevention measures available to use as the COVID-19 risks rise and fall in 2022 and subsequent years.

Westminster’s new response plan has three parts – Living With COVID-19 Responsibly, Westminster’s COVID-19 Risk Assessment Process, and Westminster’s COVID-19 Prevention Measures. As before, we expect this plan and its parts will be regularly updated as we continue to learn about the evolution of the COVID-19 virus and how we can live with and minimize its risks over time.

This plan incorporates the current measures Westminster is taking to protect children under five who cannot yet be vaccinated, such as requiring masks during worship. After the approval of a vaccination for children under 5 the task force will amend the plan.

The Session of Westminster approved the task force’s new, longer-term plan Westminster’s Living With COVID-19 Response on April 21, 2022.

Read Westminster’s Living With COVID-19 Response (pdf)

Changes in Westminster’s Covid Protocols

The Responsible Building Use Task Force met on March 29, 2022, to make changes to Westminster’s Covid protocols, given the much lower rates of transmission of the virus.

Since the start of the pandemic, the goal of the Task Force has been to keep staff, church members, and visitors safe. Safety continues to be the priority of Westminster’s Covid protocols. Early in the pandemic the focus was on protecting elders, given their high vulnerability. Now the emphasis has shifted to children under five who cannot yet be vaccinated and have been more susceptible to contracting recent Covid variants.

The measures taken at Westminster to lower the risk of transmission of Covid are based on local, CDC-determined risk levels, which are issued weekly. Hennepin County is currently in a Low Risk level, which means the following protocols will be instituted starting Monday, April 4:

  1. In order to protect children under five who cannot yet be vaccinated, masks will be required in any WPC space where under-fives are expected to be present, including Sunday morning worship. Signs will be posted outside any room on Sunday that is mask optional (such as Coffee Hour in Westminster Hall, Adult Ed, Social Justice Forum, etc.), so those entering can make their own decisions. During the 10:30 service we will provide a mask-optional space where people can worship via the livestream.
  2. Food and beverage may be served indoors at any event where under-fives are not present, using existing industry safety standards for food and beverage WPC has always followed.
  3. Room capacity limits will be lifted except in spaces where under-fives are expected to be present, when it will be 50% of capacity.
  4. Communion will be offered in the pews or by intinction with pre-packaged individual servings also available.
  5. Singing will continue and masks will be required where under-fives are expected be present, including Sunday morning worship. The choir will also continue to wear masks during Sunday worship.
  6. Offering plates may be passed in the pews.

In addition, the Responsible Building Use Task Force is currently updating Westminster’s overall Covid Response Plan, which will be presented for approval to Westminster’s Session during the April 21 meeting.

 

 

Update Regarding Rise in Infection Rate of Covid

A Note from the Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Andersen about the Latest Wave of Omicron Covid Infections

Dear Westminster friends,

With the rise of the infection rate of Covid, please be extra cautious. If you are unvaccinated or have any Covid symptoms, even mild ones, please join us in worship via the livestream. Those who come to church in person will remain masked and distanced. If you have not yet been vaccinated or boosted, please do so soon. All WPC staff members have been vaccinated, and by the end of this month will have received a booster shot.
For the next several Sundays we have instituted a rotation system for clergy, musicians, educators, and facilities team members, so that not all are on-site at the same time, to minimize risk. The Westminster Choir is standing down for a few weeks; our quartets will sing in worship. Thank you for your support in helping keep everyone safe. We will get through this together!
See you in church – in person, safely, or online.
Grace and peace,
Tim
© Westminster Presbyterian Church | 2022