COVID-19 INFORMATION

June 26 2020: Updated Guidance as COVID-19 Cases Rise in Florida


Dear Florida Conference Churches and Clergy:

Last Thursday we wrote to encourage and inform you as you make decisions in the midst of this ever-changing reality. We know there is stress and anxiety in having to rethink decisions as the pandemic continues.

Today, we write to inform and encourage you so you have the information you need to make safe decisions. We are learning and adapting alongside of you. Bishop Carter stated on May 28th that our guidance around returning to in-person worship could change as the number of cases began to increase. 

The latest information shows:

  • Cases are rising exponentially in our state. The seven-day average of new cases is up 85% from the previous week (new seven-day average is 4,149) and the last two days have seen over 5,000 new cases each day (Breaking news as we send this says 8,942 more cases were reported today). The CDC and other health experts agree that this increase in cases is not simply connected to increased testing. (To listen to the latest CDC briefing click here). 
  • Even though the increase in positive cases is among younger people, the spread of the virus is real and dangerous for all people, especially those with underlying health conditions. Yesterday, the CDC updated its list of people at risk.  
  • We encourage you to look at all the data including: the number of new cases, the infection rate, the positive test rate, the hospitalization rates, and the ICU bed capacity. We have learned that it is not wise to base guidance solely on ICU bed space availability. As one of our health consultants said, “Sadly, by the time ICU beds reach capacity the outbreak will be uncontrollable.” 

Based on this information we offer this updated guidance:

  1. This is not a time to relax any of our previously stated health guidelinesprotocols, or FAQ.

  2. Virtual worship is the safest approach, and outdoor worship is encouraged over inside. 

  3. Churches should consider delaying plans to return to in-person worship.  We know some of you have already pushed your return to in-person worship date back in response to the rise in cases, and others of you have met in person and are now returning to virtual-only worship.

  4. Wearing masks is essential when any group gathers together. We ask everyone to wear a mask and do not consider masks to be optional.   

We continue to honor the sense that there is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach for every church around the conference. Contexts are different as cases rise at different rates in different counties and zip codes (click here for a county and zip code break down). 

At the same time, your church is not the exception. We have had increased positive cases among clergy families, church staff, volunteers, preschool families, church members, and more. Some of these are connected to individuals who made exceptions to the protocols. Others are connected to the increased spread of the virus around us.

We encourage you to continue your discussions with your local church teams. In your discussion, you and your leaders might refer back to the article Why Reopening a Church is Different. Although it was written a few weeks ago, a key point remains the same: “Our reopening plans are not about what is best for the management of our church, but what is best for the common good and greater community. This is not a time to focus primarily on what we may be sacrificing by not gathering, but how we are serving and loving all our neighbors by not gathering too soon.” 

If you have questions, please reach out to your District Superintendent or contact the Episcopal Office at ashanks@flumc.org

 

The Peace of the Lord,

Bishop Ken Carter and The Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference


June 11 2020 Webinar with Dr. Fred Southwick, Infectious Disease expert

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On June 11, over 400 of you joined us for a webinar with Dr. Fred Southwick, an infectious disease expert who attends a Florida United Methodist Church. Here are some key things he shared that may help augment your returning to in-person worship plans:
 

  • Being outside is much safer than being inside. There is much less transmission of the virus outside especially when people remain appropriately distanced.
  • The virus spreads mostly from droplets and aerosols released from infected people when they talk, cough, sneeze, and sing. For this reason, wearing masks and remaining six feet apart are essential.
  • Singing is the most dangerous activity you could do in church. Aerosols created by singing are not stopped by a mask or face shields. We recommend no congregational singing. Dr. Southwick recommended any soloist who leads singing should be tested every two weeks as well as remain appropriately distanced.
  • Although cleaning high touch areas like doors and restroom counters between services is important, it is not prudent to spend thousands of dollars on a deep clean each week because the virus does not stay active on surfaces beyond three days. 
  • Older adults and those with other medical conditions are more likely to develop complications from being infected. They should remain especially vigilant and avoid gatherings.
  • Children’s ministry in smaller groups with limited capacity, wearing masks and social distancing that does not involve volunteers in the vulnerable population can be done safely. Children who live with vulnerable adults should remain careful not to spread the disease at home.
     

To watch the entire webinar click HERE.  To download the PowerPoint slides from Dr. Southwick click HERE.  If you or your church have additional questions about returning to in person worship please visit our COVID-19 resource page or email Alex Shanks at ashanks@flumc.org.


From the Return to In-Person Task Force


Dear Oceanview Church Family,
We are making plans to offer worship services in person on our campus. While "Home Worship" on our website will never go away, we know that some are anxious to come to the property. Things will look very different when you see the church buildings again. First of all, when we last met on March 8, there was a lot of construction that was in process. What you will find today is a beautiful facility. For example, all of the doors and windows have been replaced and are now finished and cleaned. There is fresh new carpet on the chancel area, and all of the pews were professionally cleaned. The fellowship hall overhang has was removed, and the surface refinished. All of the floors were buffed, and the whole of the external building painted.



While returning to the sanctuary on Sundays may be somewhat challenging. Please review these protocols below that are put in place to keep you safe and healthy when you come to the property. 

 

“Instead of each person watching out for their own good, 

watch out for what is better for others.” -Philippians 2:6


Here are some things you can expect on a Sunday morning.

  • You will be asked to wear a face-covering "I wear my mask to protect you, you wear your mask to protect me. "
  • There will be no singing either in the congregation, choir loft, chancel area
  • When you arrive, you will be asked to socially distance yourself before taking your seat on one of the spaces on the pews. An usher will guide you.
  • When the service has concluded, and it's time to leave, the ushers will guide you so that we can be socially distant when exiting the sanctuary.
  • You will need to register for the service that you will be attending. 
  • Both worship services will be abbreviated, lasting between 30-45 minutes each.
  • A bulletin will only be available through the link on our website. 
  • On communion Sundays, the elements will be previously placed in the pews. The offering will be collected in the narthex as worshipers exit the building.
  • No Coffee or snacks will be provided or offered; however, you are welcome to bring your own. 
  • Families will sit together as nursery services are suspended until further notice.


  

We will do our best to sanitize the sanctuary in-between the two services. The date for this return to the property will depend on Palm Beach County moving to Phase Two.From Monday following our first in-person worship service, the church office will be open from 9 to 1. As always, appointments may be made to meet with pastors anytime.


  

Please do not let this plan to return to in-person gatherings pressure you into attending if you do not feel comfortable doing so. All acts of worship are by invitation, meaning it is not required nor compulsory that you attend. Home Worship on the website will continue indefinitely. If you need assistance accessing the internet from your home, let us know we are working on solutions for the few that have these limitations.


Your love and support mean so much during this time. The church is here for you, whether in person or not. Please reach out with any needs 561.626.2500, the church office, or email emily@oceanviewumc.com .