Vestry Statement on Masking at 10AM In-Person Worship
On Thursday, September 29, 2022, the Vestry voted to align our masking policy for the 10 AM in-person service with CDC guidelines. That means that when CDC community risk is Low or Medium, masks are strongly recommended but not required. Masks will be required when the community is rated as High risk. The church will follow Dane County Public Health Department data for this information. This change will take effect on Sunday, October 9, 2022.
Please read on for answers to some questions you may have, and for a reflection from Rev. Miranda.
The Vestry commits to revisiting our COVID guidelines regularly, with intention, and we appreciate your prayers as we move forward.
SOME QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE…
Q: What does this mean for other services?
A: For the foreseeable future, the 8AM service will remain fully masked. The 9AM and Sunday evening virtual services will continue to be offered.
Q: What does this mean for other groups and activities?
A: For the time being, our current policies of required masking indoors will continue to be the norm. In the coming weeks, conversations will take place with individual groups and ministries about masking policies.
Q: Why make this decision now?
A: Aligning our policy at the 10 AM service provides clarity for parishioners and visitors, along with allowing the Vestry to turn attention and energy to other pressing matters within our congregation. We also are grateful for multiple effective and safe vaccinations available to people aged 6 months and older that have allowed decisions like this one to become possible.
Q: What are the precautions the church is taking to mitigate potential viral spread?
A: The CDC recommends a layered approach to reduce exposure to COVID. St. Dunstan’s has enacted several layers of protection.
- We have installed a filtration system in our furnaces that replaces outdoor air with the air circulating through the church. You can read more HERE.
- We have air purifiers with HEPA filters placed throughout the church and are purchasing more. Read more about how and why this purifiers help with viral transmission HERE.
- We will continue to open the side windows for ventilation as long as possible.
- We have fans helping to circulate air.
- We will continue to offer high quality masks to all who want them.
Q: I’ve been exposed to COVID. What should I do?
A: The CDC recommends that you wear a high quality mask and test at least 5 days after exposure or if you present symptoms. You do not have to isolate. Find more specific information HERE.
Q: I’ve been diagnosed with COVID. What should I do? When can I return to church?
A: Stay home for at least 5 days and wear a high quality mask for an additional 5 days. St Dunstan’s strongly recommends parishioners not return to church without a negative antigen test. You can find more information HERE.
Q. What if I have symptoms but I’m pretty sure it’s just a cold?
A: The CDC recommends that people with the common cold stay home while they are sick to avoid spreading it to others. Please consider joining us for our 9:00 Zoom service.
Q: Are our Zoom services going to continue?
A: Yes! Zoom services will be continuing and we are committed to work to finding more ways to connect our members who are participating primarily online and in-person.
Q: I have questions or comments. Who should I come to with my thoughts?
A word from Rev. Miranda…
Many of you know that I have been and continue to be on the relatively “Covid-cautious” end of the continuum. I take Long Covid risks very seriously, having watched an extended family member’s difficult journey. I also have kids in school, and interact with lots of people in my work – so I want to try to avoid passing on Covid from an unknown exposure. Even though I’m fully vaccinated and boosted, you’ll likely see me continue masking in most church contexts for the foreseeable future.
However, I am able to make my peace with this change of masking policy – making masks recommended but not required for our 10AM in-person service, when the CDC Community Level for Dane County is Medium or Low. (Remember, masks will be required when the Community Level is High.)
What helps me feel okay about this change?
- St. Dunstan’s has taken significant steps to address airborne transmission risks, the primary way Covid spreads. We installed energy recovery ventilators in the Nave (sanctuary) and Parish Center, where our youth groups meet. We also have several air cleaners in use (and more on the way). These improvements can only reduce risk, not eliminate it. However, even with optional masks, I believe St. Dunstan’s has more mitigations in place than most places I go in a given week.
- We will continue to provide high-quality masks for anyone attending worship. One-way masking with a high-filtration mask that fits your face well provides moderate protection, in addition to our other mitigations. (Please remember that the masks we provide are good for 40+ hours of wear – it’s a waste to throw them away after one use. Keep them in the car for errands, or church next week!)
- I believe that our church community has a high vaccination rate – and I hope folks are getting their boosters, too! And I trust that people are committed to our common good and will follow our shared guidelines about things like staying home long enough after a Covid case.
- It’s important to me that this is a decision for the 10AM worshipping community only, at this point. Many of the people who attend that service regularly have expressed that they are ready for this change. Masking policy for other meetings and ministries will be a matter for ongoing conversation and discernment. (For now, masks are still required at the 8AM in-person service, and Zoom worship will continue!)
- Finally, tying our policies to the CDC community levels is simple and clear. It also commits us to continuing to inform our congregation and guests about those levels.
I know that members of our congregation will have a range of feelings about this change. I’m grateful for the trust, patience, openness and mutual care that have carried us through thus far. If you’d like to talk with me, or with any member of the Vestry, about our Covid policies and mitigations, please reach out at any time.