Last week our blog highlighted that with the changes due to the Delta variant, the UUA was in the process of updating our guidance for congregations. That guidance came out on Friday.
In her letter explaining the guidance updates, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray said "While we don’t have a single, clear directive like we did when we recommended all congregations stop meeting in-person in the spring of 2020, we recognize that our UUA recommendations have been helpful to our congregations navigating difficult decisions in a precarious and changing context."
Upon consulting the public health professionals who have been advising us throughout the pandemic, for now, the UUA strongly recommends:
- For all indoor gatherings, regardless of size, vaccination status, or area transmission risk: Require good ventilation, well-fitted masks, physical distancing of at least 6 feet, reduced occupancy, no singing, and no food, nor drinks.
- Require well-fitted masks for all large outdoor events, for any outdoor event where unvaccinated children or other vulnerable people are included, and for outdoor gatherings of any size in counties where transmission is Very High or Severe (per the COVID Act Now data).
- As children below age 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, hold religious education activities and multi-age programs outdoors. If children are indoors, ensure excellent ventilation, masking, physical distancing, and reduced room occupancy.
- In areas where transmission risk is Very High or Severe (per the COVID Act Now data), suspend all large, in-person (indoor and outdoor) gatherings such as worship, concerts, or fundraisers.
- In areas where transmission risk is Low, Medium, or High (per the COVID Act Now data), small and mid-size gatherings, including limited-attendance worship, may be reasonably safe if indoor precautions for masking, ventilation, physical distancing and high vaccination rates are followed.
- Create an expectation that vaccinations are required for everyone who is eligible. Work to have the highest vaccination rate possible in your community. We support requiring vaccinations for staff, lay leaders, and anyone spending time with children.
With these updates, it is important for congregations to regularly assess the transmission risk for their local and surrounding areas as determined by trusted health authorities and the particular risk factors for staff and members of the community. Then, following our Four Principles to Guide Decisions for UU Gatherings (PNG), leaders can make faithful and careful decisions.
You can read the full guidance document in the UUA LeaderLab. There are additional documents that have been posted on the topics of:
- Individual Masking in Covenantal Community
- Can We Require Vaccinations for Staff?
- COVID-19 Vaccination for Volunteers, Members, and Visitors
As I said last week, we know this isn't want many people hoped for as when they started planning the new church year back in the spring. But we do hope that you will take these recommendations to heart and alter the plans to fit the reality of your area so that your congregation can be a safe haven for everyone of any age. If your congregation needs help please reach out to your primary contact.