By Mark Proctor
Associate Administrator, TBMB
As churches began looking towards regathering for worship and events, there is much to be considered for those who are in charge of making sure that attendees feel safe and welcome on the church campus.
The following is a list of some guidelines that will help church leaders:
PREPARE THE GUESTS FOR THE FACILITY
- Communicate Expectations — Prepare your congregation for what to expect upon arrival at the facility. Try to anticipate the anxieties and questions congregants will have and communicate with them in advance via e-mail, broadcast text messages, All-Call systems, etc. Social media is also quite effective, primarily Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Let them know where to park, where to enter, where to sit, and whether restrooms will be available. Communicating all expectations and adaptations in advance helps people feel more comfortable and more welcome. It is still true, “people feel cared for where they’ve been prepared for.”
- Website Updates – Your church website is still your most frequently visited front door, particularly for first-time guests. Be sure your church plans, adaptations, and expectations are clearly spelled out there in positive, forward looking language.
- Continue livefeed broadcasts of your services and encourage those who are ill, have a temperature, or who might be vulnerable to remain at home for a while longer.
PREPARE THE FACILITY FOR GUESTS
Facilities unoccupied for ten days or more will not have evidences of COVID-19 on any surface; however, proper precautions are encouraged and will be greatly appreciated by anxious members and guests returning to your facility for the first time. Make sure to communicate these steps clearly prior to their arrival.
- Facilities, by design, inspire behavior. Be aware of the architectural layout of your facility. Some facilities have natural ‘choke-points’ where people will naturally converge while circulating (hallway intersections, small lobbies, vestibules, etc.) Develop and communicate with signage the preferred circulation routes to avoid these areas and encourage movement rather than close contact gathering.
- Be aware that safety codes, applicable laws, and security requirements may not be violated to accommodate social distancing.
- Perform standard and deep cleaning using CDC recommended practices and EPA-registered products, focusing on high touchpoints, immediately prior to first gathering. Encourage cleaning staff to use and dispose of Personal Protection Equipment. Train staff and volunteers to reference the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet).
- Place hand sanitizing stations at all entrances with proper signage encouraging its use.
- Filtration in building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can be a part of an overall risk mitigation approach but is not generally regarded as a solution by itself. Prepare your HVAC system for reopening your building by changing system filters (be sure to use PPE) and cleaning the system coils. Filters should be rated at least MERV 8 or higher.
- Consider the use of continuous cleaning surfaces, like NanoSeptic pads, for high contact touchpoints including door handles, elevator buttons, light switches, etc.
- Consider the use of hands-free fixtures in restroom facilities.
CONTROL ACCESS AND CIRCULATION
- Use professionally prepared, appropriate interior and exterior signage on all parts of the facility to direct traffic flow, circulation and behavior. Be sure the signage is not overly dire or restrictive.
- While there is no direct evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by foods or food packaging, to avoid gathering and lingering, close the church kitchen and prohibit the serving of foods in classrooms and lobbies. Appropriate food-handling resources and guidelines related to COVID-19 can be found at the National Restaurant Association website and at the ServSafe website.
- Consider the use of floor marking products like TexWalk for printed floor graphics to overlay hard and carpeted surfaces.
- Prop doors open during high-flow entrance and exit times or have greeters open the doors for worshipers.
- Train greeters and ushers to encourage proper behaviors by worshipers without becoming enforcement officers. “Doing all things in love” applies particularly now.
FACILITY SOCIAL DISTANCING
- Consider closing smaller spaces like Sunday School classrooms and conference rooms to avoid gatherings in confined spaces. The proper capacity of any room is to maintain the recommended six feet of distancing is the net area of the room divided by 36. For example, a 400 square foot adult Sunday School classroom, which could normally accommodate up to 35 people can only accommodate 11 to maintain safe distancing. This may require Sunday School classes be relocated to larger spaces or it may require they forgo meeting altogether for a period.
- Be sure lobbies and elevators have proper signage to encourage proper distancing while people wait. Elevator cabs should be limited to a maximum of two people.
- Avoid the distribution of bulletins and the passing of offering plates.
CDC LEVEL ONE – CLEANING AND DISINFECTION DETAILS
This level of cleaning should be performed prior to each gathering and in between services if multiple groups use the same space.
EPA Registered disinfectants are used to sanitize touchpoints. This would include shared items staff, contractors, and worshipers might touch throughout the course of any given day, including but not limited to:
- Door and Cabinet Handles
- Light Switches
- Kitchen Equipment Handles
- Restroom and Fixtures (including diaper-changing stations)
- Elevator Call and Control Panels
- HVAC Control Panels
- Remote Controls to Electronic Devices
- Time Clocks
- Office Equipment
- Audiovisual Equipment
CDC LEVEL TWO – CLEANING AND DISINFECTION DETAILS
This level of cleaning and disinfection can be triggered upon request of staff or upon evidence or suggestion of a possible infection.
EPA Registered (Hospital Grade) disinfectants specific to COVID-19 are used for this level of cleaning. These blends attack and kill more complex bacterial spores and viruses. According to the CDC critical contact surfaces include all items in level one and the following.
- Desktops Surfaces and Desk Drawer Handles/Face Plates
- Touch Screens
- Chair Surfaces and Handrails
- Tabletops/Kitchen Cabinet Surfaces and Café Tables
- Fabric Chairs and Partitions
- Hard Surface Flooring
- Carpeted Surface
- Vertical Metal/Wood on Partitions
- Door Frames
- Elevator Walls and Stainless Steel Surfaces
- Presentation Boards
- Wall Surfaces
- Hard Surface Ceiling
Disinfection/Cleaning Products Registered by EPA: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
Facility Signage: https://www.signs.com/covid-19-signage/
High Contact Surface Continuous Cleaning Pads: https://shop.nanoseptic.com/
Printable Floor Graphics: https://www.jessupmfg.com/products-solutions/graphics-media/shop-by-brand/texwalkr.html
Centers for Disease Control – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html