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 to Continue with Current Covid Protocols

Westminster’s Responsible Building Use Task Force continues to meet regularly and review the Covid protocols in place. The purpose of these protocols is to ensure that we keep the members of our community, especially the vulnerable ones, safe while also allowing church activities to continue as much as possible.

On October 19, the task force met and reviewed data for the Twin Cities area. Currently in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, Covid positivity rates remain high with a significant number of new Covid cases each week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed Hennepin and Ramsey counties in the “High Transmission” category and recommends everyone should wear a mask in public indoor settings. In addition, the impact of Covid has placed a strain on available beds at hospitals, with 96% of ICU beds and 93% of non-ICU beds currently full (Star Tribune, October 20, 2021).

The task force agreed that because our area remains at high-risk for Covid transmission, we must continue to require masks and distancing, and limit allowances in the building. The task force has decided to continue with the current protocols under Phase 4 in our re-opening the building plan.

The task force will meet again in early December to review the data and consider any changes. Until the positivity rate and number of new cases decline, the community transmission rate declines, and more hospital beds become available, the task force does not anticipate any changes to Westminster’s Covid protocols.

You can help all of us get back together again in person by being fully vaccinated.

Current allowances and requirements in Phase 4.0:

  • All individuals inside the church building are required to wear masks (except if alone in an office).
  • Individuals from different households are required to remain six feet apart as much as possible, especially in events, meetings, and worship.
  • Singing with masks on is allowed inside the building and mask-optional singing is allowed outside.
  • No food or drink consumption is allowed inside the building (except for communion in the sanctuary and employee meals).
  • Food and drink consumption outside is permitted, with individual serving portions.
  • Groups of up to 400 people are allowed to gather in the sanctuary (including the balcony) with 6-foot social distancing.
  • Outdoor gatherings are allowed with masks optional for fully-vaccinated individuals, provided the number of people is limited to the maximum capacity with 6-foot social distancing.
  • Groups of up to 25% of room capacity are allowed to meet in the building and indoors at off-site locations, provided occupancy is limited to the maximum capacity with 6-foot social distancing.
  • All occupancy limitations may be increased or decreased by the COVID-19 Response Team as circumstances and regulations change.
© Westminster Presbyterian Church | 2022