With Coronavirus arriving in Oregon, many of our churches and schools are asking, “what should we do to prepare?”
By now there are many great sources of information on how to approach a potential public health event. The Oregon Health Authority has published some good guidelines for how to prevent illness. They include steps such as:
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue (or your elbow) and then throw the tissue in the trash. Then wash your hands.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
The Center for Disease Control has published guides for faith-based organizations and schools that are great checklists to make sure we’re as prepared as possible for something like this. The common themes:
• Take common-sense precautions to prevent the transmission of disease in our facilities. (Just like in flu season.)
o Limit or eliminate handshakes.
o Encourage people to stay home if they have symptoms of illness.
o Have extra hand sanitizer and facial tissue available.
o Have a few face masks available for those that show symptoms of illness. (Put a facemask on them and send them home.)
o Actively remind people to practice good personal hygiene and prevention habits. (See above)
• Make sure everyone in your church/school is aware of how further information will be shared.
This week, we’ve still received some specific questions:
Should we close our church or school?
Every situation is different. At the Oregon Conference, we continue to review reports from county health departments and Oregon Health Authority to provide updated recommendations to our churches and schools. As of today, the recommendation is that closing an event is unnecessary unless/until someone in your immediate community is diagnosed with COVID-19. Even at that point, it may not be necessary. With common-sense precautions, we hope that closing or postponing events will be unnecessary for our churches and schools. Nevertheless, the local board decides whether events should be cancelled or postponed.
Do we need to deep clean? How long can these viruses remain infective on objects or surfaces?
This week Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon state Health Officer, provided this answer in a Facebook webinar with Governor Kate Brown (Want to watch the entire webinar with the governor? Here’s the link: https://katu.com/news/local/oregon-gov-brown-holds-conference-on-how-state-is-handling-coronavirus):
"So, we think for hard surfaces we're still learning more about virus, but it seems to be fairly short-lived. Probably in the range of several hours to one to maybe three hours. There are studies with other coronaviruses that they can last from as short an hour to closer to 9 days, but we think this virus probably two to three hours. The good news is you don't need any special cleaning products to kill this virus on surfaces. Routine products at home or office are going to work. So, if you're cleaning regularly that's one of the best way to protect yourself and those around you.”
According to Dr. Sidelinger, if your church or school is going to be empty for a couple of days, any existing virus will be non-infective by the time people return to the building. Also, for surfaces that do need cleaning throughout the day, regular disinfectant cleaning products will work effectively. This is good news!
A Reminder: Do Not Fear
While much of our community seems driven by fear of this coronavirus, we’re reminded by the health authorities, and by Scripture itself, that we need not join in the fear: "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.” Isaiah 41:10
Instead of fear, let’s work together to keep our communities healthy and care for each other throughout this season of illness.