COVID-19 Response Plan
Jesus calls pastors to care for His sheep in their care. This is a charge that we take very serious at COTW. With that said we have never had to navigate a global pandemic in the past. While we may not know all the answers we know that we serve a sovereign God that has appointed us to lead through this situation. To make sure that we care for everyone we have put into place a plan to care for both those who might get infected and for those that may have come in contact with them. It is our hope and prayer that we never have to implement this plan. To provide the best care for the flock we also want to be prepared as leaders and have a plan before we find ourselves in that position to need one.
Step One – Identify
If a person, who has attended church or small group, tests positive for COVID-19, the church will need to act quickly to minimize the spread of the disease in the church. If someone has symptoms of COVID-19, they may first be asked not to attend until they have been tested. The church can reasonably require a symptomatic member/visitor to submit to a medical exam during a pandemic. If testing is not available, it is wisest to assume that a symptomatic attendee may have COVID-19. The infected person should identify all areas of the church or small group home where he or she was physically present in the previous two weeks. The infected person will also need to identify all people he or she came in contact with in the two weeks prior to testing positive or having symptoms. The church will encourage the person to stay home from any in-person events for 14 days, contact a health care provider, and self-quarantine.
Step Two – Notify
After collecting information from the infected attendee, the church will provide notification to impacted attendees. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that if an attendee tests positive for COVID-19, the church should inform other attendees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the church. If you cannot get testing, it is reasonable to follow similar steps.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other medical privacy laws, churches are prohibited from disclosing the private medical information of attendees. The church will strive to maintain the medical confidentiality of the affected attendee. The church will alert potentially affected attendees that an unidentified person with whom they have been in recent contact has tested positive for COVID-19. Note, however, that if the affected person freely gives permission, his or her identity can be revealed. In church small groups, it may be obvious anyway once others are notified.
If at all possible, impacted attendees will be encouraged to connect virtually with church services and use google hangouts for small group attendance for the two weeks of self isolation. The church will encourage impacted attendees to monitor themselves for symptoms and seek medical treatment if necessary.
Finally, the church may also need to provide notification to the local health department. The church will consult with local health department officials to determine whether the church has a mandatory reporting obligation. If a local health department requires notification of any COVID-19 cases, the church does not have to maintain the same level of confidentiality of the attendee’s identity when reporting to the health department.
Step Three – Sanitize
Once a church informs the attendees of the reported case of COVID-19, the church will close its buildings for a period of time while the space is cleaned and sanitized.
Step Four – Care
It is the church’s duty to protect the attendees and maintain calm. Throughout the process, it will be important for the church to maintain consistent, honest, and thoughtful communication. While respecting medical privacy, churches should keep the impacted attendees informed about when they can return to services, offer telecounseling if needed, what measures have been taken to sanitize the church, and how the church will be maintaining a safe and clean environment for the attendees.